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In Three Tweets, Trump Bans Transgender People from Military; Heads of Military Branches Caught Off Guard by Transgender Ban; Interview with Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:03] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Thanks for joining us.

An effort to repeal Obamacare with no consensus on a plan to replace it failed in the Senate today and the president continued his attacks on his own attorney general. We'll have more on all of that tonight.

But we begin with the president's pronouncement on a major military policy decision, a pronouncement he made Twitter this morning.

Quote: After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. A military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with a tremendous medical cost and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.

Three tweets out of the blue. No official public announcement. No explanation of what will happen to the thousands of transgender troops currently serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Will they be kicked out?

At the White House press briefing today, no answers to that question.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders could not or would not answer questions about whether current service members will be removed.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has a lot of support for all Americans and certainly wants to protect all Americans at all times. The president has expressed concerns since this Obama policy came into effect. But he's also voiced that this is a very expensive and disruptive policy, and based on consultation that he's had with his national security team, came to the conclusion that it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion, and made the decision based on that. The decision is based on a military decision. It's not meant to be anything more than that.


COOPER: At a White House event, an attempt to get some clarity from the president later went ignored.


REPORTER: Mr. President, how did you decide your policy on transgender people in the military?



COOPER: So, all we have on this policy change that will profoundly affect thousands of service member's lives are the president's three tweets, which mention the tremendous medical costs and disruption, having transgender service members in the military. What he means by disruption is really anybody's guess.

But keeping them honest on the tremendous medical costs, last year, a study commissioned by the Defense Department estimated those costs to be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year, out of the nearly $50 billion the Defense Department spends annually on health care.

Again, the high estimate is $8.4 million, and as "The Washington Post" points out, the military spends more than $41 million a year just on Viagra. This according to analysis by the "Military Times".

As per Sarah Huckabee Sanders' insistence that this was a military decision and nothing more, keeping them honest, if that is true, why were the heads of the four branches of the military caught off guard by the tweets, according to a U.S. military official? Beyond that, there's a politics issue and a perception issue that can't be ignored.

"Politico" reports the sudden transgender ban was in part an effort to save a House spending bill, a bill in jeopardy because of GOP infighting over the issue of the government paying medical costs for transgender troops. And an "Axios" political reporter quotes a Trump administration official saying the ban would force Democrats in Rust Belt states to own the issue, defending transgender service members in the 2018 elections, which the White House believes would hurt those Democrats.

Either motivation amounts to using transgender political as political pawns, or as widgets. And it also may not be a coincidence the president suddenly did this when he's getting criticism from conservative supporters about his treatment of Attorney General Sessions, essentially throwing some red meat to conservatives upset at the president.

The irony, of course, is this president waved the flag for equal treatment of gay and transgender people from time to time throughout his campaign, portraying himself as a protector of equal rights for all. At the very least, the ban on transgender people in the military is a broken campaign promise.


TRUMP: LGBT is starting to like Donald Trump very much. I will tell you. You tell me, who's better for gays? Who is better? Tell me.

Who's better for the gay community and who's better for women than Donald Trump? Believe me.

The LBGT community, the gay community, the lesbian community, they are so much in favor of what I've been saying over the last three or four days.

As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.


COOPER: As you know, Mr. Trump never served in the military. Some lawmakers who did have weighed in, including Senator John McCain who said in a statement that regardless of gender identity, any American who wants to and is able to serve should be treated as the patriots they are.

Earlier, I spoke with Senator Tammy Duckworth, who's a Purple Heart recipient. She was an Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot who was shot down in Iraq and lost her legs and partial use of her right arm. Here's what she had to say.


COOPER: Senator Duckworth, CNN is reporting tonight that the service chiefs who represent the four branches of the military were actually caught off guard by the president's Twitter announcement.

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: This is very, very typical of this president who blunders forward in areas where he has no expertise.

[20:05:04] I've said before, he is not fit to be commander-in-chief and this tweet shows that he has reinforced what -- my opinion of him.

COOPER: When the White House says this was purely a military decision, that having transgender people serve, quote, disrupts military readiness and unit cohesion, do you believe that?

DUCKWORTH: I absolutely do not believe that, Anderson. We've had transgender people who have served in -- tens of thousands of them have served over the course of our military's history. And I don't know why the president is doing this. If anything, what he's doing is disruptive to unit cohesion.

COOPER: I mean, is this about politics? Or this is about just appealing to his base?

DUCKWORTH: I would think this is about appealing to his base. It's certainly not about military readiness. And the facts and figures that he quotes are blatantly wrong. He says it's going to be too expensive when, you know, the cost estimate for the health care of transgender people is around in 2015, 2016, $5.6 million. The Pentagon in the same time period spent $41 million on Viagra. So, if you want to talk about cost, there are other places where you can cut.

COOPER: I mean, the fact that the White House has no answer to the question of what's going to happen to transgender members who are currently serving, does that make sense to you? I mean, I would think that would have been something that was figured out before announcing this.

DUCKWORTH: Well, isn't this typical of this administration, Anderson? Frankly, they move forward, they have not found anything out. They just come one these terrible ideas that actually are harmful for our nation, and in this case, harmful for the greatest military on the face of the earth.

Our military men and women who are willing to die to protect the values enshrined on our Constitution deserves far better than this type of policy, especially one that's not been thought out.

COOPER: I want to play for our viewers something the president said just last night which was directed to veterans, some remarks he made.


TRUMP: You carried out your duty with honor, courage and devotion. And with your sacrifice, you earned our freedom. In my administration, we will always protect those who protect us, believe me. We will protect you, because you have protected us.


COOPER: I mean, is there some irony in that? He said that yesterday. I mean, is the president today protecting people who protected us?

DUCKWORTH: I think that his tweet today made a lie of what he said last night.

COOPER: You know, "Axios" spoke to someone in the White House about this decision who said this forces Democrats in Rust Belt States to take ownership of the issue, basically saying that blue collar voters who might not look kindly in opposition to this move from the president, you're from a Rust Belt State. How do you respond to that?

DUCKWORTH: Well, when I'm out in my home state of Illinois, and I travel with people or talking about the promises that he has not kept, and they're not talking about this issue. They're talking about the fact that he's allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to be made with foreign steel, steel made in Russia. They're talking about the fact that he spends $3 million a weekend to go to Mar-A-Lago at a time when we have counties in the southern part of my state that don't have enough sheriff deputies who are on duty. People are not talking about this issue.

COOPER: So, to the thousands of transgender members who are serving now in the military, what can you say to them tonight?

DUCKWORTH: Well, I will be fighting on their behalf. And what I'm going to say to them and to the American people is that when I was bleeding to death in my helicopter after that RPG ripped through cockpit of the aircraft, and an American came to save my life, it didn't matter to me if they were gay, if they were straight, if they were transgender. It only mattered that they wore the uniform of the United States military. And I will always remember that.

If you're willing to serve this country in uniform and you're willing to lay down your life to protect it, you deserve to be able to do that. And so many more Americans, including our president, has never worn the uniform. And he just needs to back off but I will stand up and fight for our transgender and all of our military men and women.

COOPER: Senator Duckworth, appreciate your time. Thank you.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.


COOPER: Lots to talk about. Joining me now is Matt Lewis, Kirsten Powers, Dana Bash, in Washington, Jeffrey Toobin and April Ryan.

Dana, I mean, is this just about politics? I mea, to try to either distract from the Russia or Jeff Sessions or the health care news, or feeding red meat to the base?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's almost impossible to imagine that it isn't. Now, White House sources to me, I should say, denied that today, but it does defy any sort of logic that there is any other reason.

You know, there are some reporting that -- and some questions about whether it was conservatives in the House who were reaching out to the president to try to get him to do this himself, so that they -- because they felt like they were going to lose the issue legislatively as part of the budget. That is possible. But again --


COOPER: But my understanding, what they were focusing on was more medical costs, not a total ban on transgender people.

[20:10:03] BASH: That's exactly right. And so, that brings me to the next -- to the next point, is that even people who were reluctant to have taxpayer dollars pay for any kind of medical treatment for a transition, they did not expect that the president would just full-on reverse this -- allowing -- or put a ban on transgenders in the military. Not anybody on Capitol Hill.

According to Barbara Starr, the people who, despite what the White House is saying, who are, you know, in charge of this, who wear the uniform. And so, it was a real stunner. Never mind the question of how he did it. Just random tweets without any interpretation with that, without any explanation, without any -- you know, never mind a policy paper explaining why. It was absolutely kind of impulse policymaking at its best.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, I mean, legally, the president, can he do this? Because a lot of people who were transgender in the military were essentially encouraged last year under the Obama policy to come forward and identify themselves and now, those who have come forward and identified themselves, I assume under this policy can maybe be fired.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there certainly will be lawsuits. There's no doubt about it. The ACLU has already put out a call for potential plaintiffs who want to bring cases. The problem with challenging this change, and obviously we're going have to see precisely how it's spelled out and applied, is that courts give the military a great deal of deference in terms of how they organize themselves, what they view as militarily necessary deference issues like unit cohesion.

There's a great reluctance among courts to second guess that. That's why most of the "don't ask, don't tell" challenges failed. It was only when Congress and the president, President Obama, changed the policy that the policy changed. The courts were not nearly as helpful as they were on same-sex marriage.

So I think lawsuits here, they will certainly be filed but I think they're likely to be long shots. This is a political and military issue, more than an issue for the courts.

COOPER: Matt, do you think it's about politics, more than really military issues?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think that -- I think that, look, there is an argument, we've had this before with gays in the military about unit cohesion, about whether or not we're focused on social engineering versus military readiness. But I don't think that's what this is because it's apropos of nothing. Like there was no impetus for that debate.

This was -- seemed to come out of nowhere, and the only rational is political. And I think the most -- you listed a few of the scenarios. I think the most compelling for me is that you finally now have conservatives, people like Breitbart and Newt Gingrich and others, who are pumping the -- you know, saying lay off of Jeff Sessions, you know? Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh.

And now, all of a sudden, Donald Trump does something that's social conservatives, that cultural warriors would love. It seems a little coincidental to me.

COOPER: Yes, Kirsten, I mean, Zeke Miller from "Time" tweeted that a White House told the administration was thrilled that this was getting so much coverage from the media. I mean, does it distract whether it's Russia investigations or Jeff Sessions criticism by conservatives of the president?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think so. I mean, the sad thing is that transgender people have become the new boogeyman for social conservatives. So, now, I guess they've lost the battle on gay marriage. And so, now, they've moved on to transgender people. And you can see in the way this came out that there was no serious

argument the transgender people are causing any problems in the military. It's that the cost is too much. And yet, they spend -- the military spends less than 1 percent of their budget dealing with health care costs -- of their health care budget dealing with health care related to transgender people. They spend five times as much on Viagra than they spend on dealing with health issues related to transgender people.

So even the argument they're putting forth is false argument. It's actually not that costly in terms of their overall budget, which, by the way, is massive.

BASH: Yes. I want to add to what you said, Matt, on the politics side of this. That when you have a president who's 35 percent, basically he's got his base, that is still supporting him. And the fact is that -- and I was -- I spent a couple of days on Capitol Hill this week. You see the Republican anger about what the president is doing to Jeff Sessions, who effectively brought Donald Trump, the conservative base, handed it to him, when he endorsed Trump back during the campaign, and so now, you have the president trying to reach out and say, oh, no, no, don't be mad about that, please, please. Remember, I've got you on this.

COOPER: And, April, I mean, to Kirsten's point, this was an argument made about allowing African-Americans to serve in the armed forces equally in units that weren't segregated.

[20:15:04] It obviously was made about gays and lesbians. And now, it's on transgender people.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And, you know, you hit the nail squarely, Anderson. In 1948, Harry Truman abolished segregation in the U.S. military. He abolished it.

And the federal government, that was the first piece of the federal government to really start opening up to others. And for this to happen now, many years later, it's sad. And this is a community, Anderson, I'm sure as you know, there are many people who are very concerned.

And I brought up a question today in the White House briefing room, that kind of played off of Major Garrett's question about tri care and health care for transgender military personnel. And there was a concern when President-elect Donald Trump was basking in the glory of his win over Hillary Clinton. Many in the transgender community were concerned about ACA changing over to Trumpcare, what it would look like with gender reassignment. They said, if we got the top done now, how could we get the bottom done? We don't know what tomorrow brings.

So, this community has been concerned about this president for a long time. And now this just adds more fuel to the fire, and going back to your original point, it seems like it is red meat for his supporters, but it's also a deflection, I believe, from the big issue as well. This is a real issue, but it is deflection. He likes to throw things out there when something is bigger than he wants. COOPER: We're going to continue the conversation next.

Also ahead, the president publicly criticized his attorney general again in a new tweet that also mentions, you guessed it, Hillary Clinton.


[20:20:31] COOPER: Well, in three tweets and catching nearly everyone off guard, including the heads of the four military branches, President Trump today banned transgender people from serving in the military. How and when this will actually be implemented is still a mystery.

A short time ago, I spoke with Kristin Beck, a highly decorated former Navy SEAL who came out as transgender after more than two decades in the military.


COOPER: What is the impact, do you think, for those service members who are transgender, who are serving and have been serving honorably?

KRISTIN BECK, RETIRED U.S. NAVY SEAL: Well, just like you said, they've been serving honorably. They've been in war zones, back and forth a few times a few of them. They're my friends.

You know, those are the people serving on our front lines of American freedom and liberty. And now, they're going to be told they're going to be rejected and unworthy to serve? I mean, that's a huge slap in the face. And they have contracts. So, there's going to be a lot of repercussions.

And you think it's expensive to pay for a few things for these individuals. This is going to get expensive really fast.


COOPER: We'll have the rest of my interview with Kirstin Beck coming up later this hour.

Right now, we're back with my panel. Joining the conversation, Christine Quinn and Jeffrey Lord.

Christine, is this just, I mean, in your opinion about politics? About kind of shoring up the base at a time when he's getting heat from the conservatives?

CHRISTINE QUINN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I do think it's about politics, and that is even sadder to me, because what we had this morning was the president of the United States, after he said in the campaign he would stand with the LBGT community, specifically saying he'd stand with the transgender community, wake up this morning and say transgender Americans are unfit to serve. They can't be in the United States military. So, it's absolutely politics. It's to distract all of us from Russia.

It's to throw red meat to the conservatives who are angry about Jeff Sessions. And that makes it even more un-American, to attack Americans, to send a message to transgender children, who have one of the highest suicide rates, that they're not worthy. Even if they're willing to die for this country, it's repugnant enough. But to do it for cheap votes makes it nothing short of un-American and disgusting.

And before Jeffrey Lord raises it, it took Barack Obama way too long to do this. I was as opposed every year he didn't do this as I was against him and gay marriage. So, I don't want to get some Trump pivot that us Democrats and LGBT activists were easier on Trump and Clinton, because we were not. And that is only more disrespectful to what he's done to transgender Americans today.

COOPER: Jeff, so, you know have thousands of transgender men and women who have come forward because they believe the U.S. had changed its policy. Is it fair to them, for the president to just wake up today and suddenly it seems like, without any much -- any preamble or public discussion, say they're going to be kicked out of the military?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Anderson, it sounds to me like he was having this discussion with his military advisers. I don't know, but certainly that's the way it sounds to me.


COOPER: But no one was really saying where that discussion was because it seems like the four heads of each branch of the military were caught off guard.

LORD: I don't know. But let me say this, I hate to disappoint my friend Christine, but on a scale of --

QUINN: Low bar, Jeffrey, low bar.

LORD: When you -- wait, when you think of that rally in Youngstown last night, the president didn't say this there. If there were a time to maximize this politically, it was right then and there when all the television cameras, including CNN, were on him and in front of thousands. He could have done that.

I honestly don't think this issue registers with most Americans. Good Lord, I saw a poll during the campaign that said abortion didn't even register, and that used to be the hot button issue of all hot button issues. So, I do think --

COOPER: You don't believe this has anything to do with politics, that it just happens to come at a time when conservatives are critical of the president for his treatment of Jeff Sessions, when health care is in doubt, and when, you know, the Russia investigations to be ramping up?

LORD: Anderson, if that were the rationale, you got to pick a better issue than this one, because I don't think this resonates. And while we're on the subject, Anderson -- COOPER: You don't think transgender are the easiest people to pick on

in this society --


QUINN: They're people. Can we not like a better topic, these are human beings, Jeffrey. Why does that cease to matter to Trump supporters? These are American human beings. And he just woke up and threw them under the bus.

LORD: (INAUDIBLE) while we're on the subject, Anderson, I want to make one point. I'm learning from you tonight that the federal government is paying for -- what do I want to say --

[20:25:07] COOPER: Viagra?

LORD: Thank you, thank you. Anderson, they have no business doing that either. What is the matter?

And to hear people say, well, it's not a lot of money. I used to work on the House Budget Committee staff for a congressman --


COOPER: You're suggesting President Trump should ban Viagra in the U.S. military? Do you think the president has the backbone to actually ban Viagra in the U.S. military?

LORD: I hope he does. I'm for -- I'd be with him.

QUINN: Let me just say, and it's -- Viagra is $46 million. All of the erectile dysfunction drugs come in at about $90 million.

LORD: (INAUDIBLE) American military (INAUDIBLE) Viagra.

QUINN: Let me tell you, that is not my greatest concern, erectile dysfunction, for a host of different reasons. But I understand some of my brothers have challenges and I want to support them to live a full life.


QUINN: But you know what, Jeffrey, I'm joking, but I'm not. But really, medical coverage is about medical need. And that's a medical need as is transitional gender alignment surgery. We're not doctors. People serve --


QUINN: You know what, Jeffrey? People serve, they risk their lives. Some of them tragically die and they get medical courage and they should get the best medical coverage.

LORD: They don't need Viagra, Christine. Come on. Come on.

QUINN: Who are you to say? Who are you to say a man serving in the military doesn't need Viagra? I'm not going to say that. That's ridiculous.

LORD: The American military got along for 200 years without Viagra and, suddenly, this is a necessity?

QUINN: Oh, you're being ridiculous.

COOPER: Jeffrey, what you're arguing is back in the old days, people were impotent and it was OK.

QUINN: Back in the old days, women had babies in farms field, so you got --


COOPER: You're arguing that Viagra is not something people should be prescribed?

QUINN: You're backing into a worse argument because you can't --

LORD: All I'm saying is pay for it yourself. Pay for it yourself. Don't have --

COOPER: So, the headline is Jeffrey Lord tells U.S. military, pay for your own Viagra? You really want to be behind that.

LORD: Yes. How about that?

QUINN: Because you have nothing rational to say about the transgender ban. You have put yourself in a more ridiculous, unsustainable, anti- military position, as the men in the military, because there is no defense, no defense for the transgender ban.

COOPER: You're making it sound as if Viagra is for social use, like going out to disco and popping Viagra. There are legitimate reasons why people take this. I mean, you know, from what I've read. I mean, anyway -- it just seems like don't you argue that our military members should get the best medical care they can get and have the best lives with their families as possible?

QUINN: Or is the new Trumpcare parceling out what heroes get?

LORD: We're in the business in America of providing the basics for people. We're not in the business of perfecting everybody's sex life. I'm sorry, it couldn't happen any way.

COOPER: All right.

QUINN: This is an absurd argument and the real issue here is that Donald Trump, for no military reason, the Department of Defense secretary is on vacation. The Pentagon admits they were blindsided.

He woke up this morning, we don't know why, but if it's because he's a hateful man and hates transgender Americans, that's enough. And if it's for political reasons, it's even worse.

And I can say this is a bad day for LGBT Americans, but I can also clearly send the message from the whole community that this day will not stand. And if Donald Trump thinks 147 characters can beat the LBGT community and the transgender community, he is, again, wrong and doesn't know what he's stirred up.

COOPER: All right. We've got to take a break.

LORD: I'm not saying they shouldn't be allowed to serve. I'm just talking about if the premise is that the government pays for everybody's medical expenses for things like this, then this is part of the problem. It goes far beyond the military and being transgender.

COOPER: Jeff, the president is saying that they shouldn't be allowed. Jeff, the argument though that you're supporting the president of saying that they should not be allowed to serve.

Any way, we got to take a break. Breaking news on health care, the Senate rejects a full Obamacare with no replacement after seven GOP defections in the vote. Tonight, Senate Democrats have a new tactic. Details on that in a moment.


[20:32:40] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For all the breaking news tonight, Senate Democrats say they will not offer any health care amendments until the GOP leaders reveal their full plan. Now, this comes after seven Republicans went against party leaders this afternoon to tank a straight repeal and delay bill in a 45 to 55 vote. CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us from Capitol Hill.

So we are expecting Senate Democrats begin offering amendments. Now Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has changed course. What do they plan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, make no mistake, Anderson. This is somewhat of a P.R. stunt by Democrats. They don't have the votes to pass any of these amendments, but it's an important part of the process, because it gives them the opportunity to get Republicans on the record on a number of different issues related to health care.

Now, what we thought was going to happen is that when the 20 hours of debate on this bill ends sometime tomorrow, that Democrats would begin offering up hundreds of amendments on a variety of topics related to health care, forcing Republicans to take a vote on some of these issues. But late tonight, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that that's not what Democrats are going to do. In fact, they're not going to offer up any amendments until they see chapter and verse of what Republicans plan to offer in this so-called skinny repeal, which we expect to be a scaled down version of Obamacare repeal that they hope can get 50 Republican votes and eventually get this bill to a conference committee.

So we don't know exactly how this is going to play out tomorrow, and how Republicans will handle this situation, but this is certainly a much different course of action than what we expected from Democrats.

COOPER: So -- I mean, the straight repeal, the Republicans tried today of Obamacare, that failed. What comes next?

NOBLES: So what comes next is this final eight hours of debate that we expect sometime tomorrow and then it's going to be almost a staring contest between Republicans and Democrats. Will Democrats begin the amendment process, offering up this variety of amendments that they have at their disposal. Or will Republicans finally come to the table with their full skinny repeal?

At this point, it's just conceptual, Anderson. We've not seen any written language connected to this proposal. We just heard what Republican aides are planning. We don't even know if it's been written yet, and perhaps we'll find that out something tomorrow.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles, I appreciate your reporting.

Kirsten Powers, Dana Bash are back, so as Jason Miller is joining us as well. I mean, Dana, this so-called skinny repeal, does that version have the best chance of passing?

[20:34:58] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It has the best of passing. It doesn't mean it's going to pass, not even close. But it has the best chance, and the reason is because it doesn't make significant cuts to Medicaid expansion, to effectively giving help to millions and millions of Americans who couldn't afford health insurance before.

That is the primary reason you see opposition from Republican senators like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and on and on and on. So that is the reason, it has the best chance.

You know, the problem for the Republican leadership is that by getting those senators on board, then you lose some of the conservatives who say wait a minute, this isn't what I signed up for when I promised to repeal Obamacare. There's so much of it that would still be in play. So it's up in the air, but by far the best chance.

COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, the question with skinny repeal is what happens when it gets to the House? You have Mark Meadows, Congressman who is Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus said it's dead on arrival.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, I think this is a little bit of a kick the can situation, where they're just trying to get something passed and then get it over to the House and put it -- go into conference and go back to the table trying to hash this out again. Because the skinny repeal all does is repeals the individual and employer mandate and the medical device tax.

So it's not really what conservatives want. And that said, it will send -- if it did somehow pass in the House, it will send the insurance market into complete turmoil, because Obamacare doesn't work without the mandate.

COOPER: Right. Jason, I mean, does it seem to you like Republicans are just kicking the can down the road with each of these votes? I mean, is there a clear endgame here? JASON MILLER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's even worse, unfortunately, Anderson. I mean the team player the Republican in me would probably come probably come out here and say we need to pass this skinny repeal, which first of all, I don't speak skinny very well, sort to speak, a little bit of a foreign language things.

But we have to go and pass something so that we can go to conference and come together and come up with some bill that we can pass both Houses. That's not what is going on here. We're getting bamboozled.

Look, we have a president who will sign a repeal of Obamacare. We have a president who will sign a repeal and replace of Obamacare. And so the fact that we can't get a bill through the Senate after all these senators ran for election, saying that they would repeal and replace Obamacare is an absolute disgrace.

I mean, first, they told us we had to have the House. So we give Republicans the House. Then they said, we have to have the Senate, so we give Republican the Senate. Then we have to get the presidency. Now we have the presidency. And this is a big shell game by the big government Republicans who are scared to actually go and reduce the size of government. Look, the exchange and the way the subsidies, the way that we're paying for health care in the Medicaid expansion, we can't afford it. It's distorting the markets and it's completely ruing our health care system. And the fact that Republicans in the Senate won't go and deal with this. Now is just absolutely embarrassing.

COOPER: I mean, there's a lot of Democrats who will agree with what Jason is saying, which is like, you know, the Republicans have been running on this for years and years and voted on this multiple times.

BASH: And a lot of Republicans who agree with what Jason is saying. Having said that, and I think Jason would probably even admit this, if the skinny Obamacare repeal and replace bill would actually pass the Senate and somehow miraculously get through the House, you bet President Trump would sign it, right, Jason?

MILLER: Well, again, let's assume they can actually get something through, because the conservatives in the House are saying that it's a nonstarter on that end.

BASH: Oh, absolutely, but --

MILLER: But again, what we have to have here is something that's fundamentally going to go and change the way that Obamacare is ruing the health care system. We have to do something about the Medicaid expansion. We have to change the way the subsidies and let's get something if we're going to help lower income Americans, get something to where it's more of a tax credit. Because again, it's -- we can't go into that much detail right now. But the system, as it's currently set up, just fundamentally won't work. Premiums are going up.

BASH: And none of these plans, none of these Republican plans address that. They just don't. MILLER: Well, I think there are some of these plans actually do help. I think the Ted Cruz amendment, I think is probably the best step in the right direction, where I've seen, well, that will actually will lower some premiums and lower some of the costs. I think that's the best step. But look, this whole shell game that we're seeing right now, it's just -- as someone who works so hard to elect a lot of these Republicans is really frustrating.

COOPER: All right, everybody thanks. The President launches yet another attack in Jeff Sessions today, despite his long time support. How Trump views loyalty, next.


[20:43:09] COOPER: President Trump is not backing down from his one- sided feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The President posted these two tweets just this morning, "Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of the Clinton investigation but got big dollars, $700,000, for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!"

The President's outrage is a big reversal from the campaign when he seemed grateful to get Sessions' endorsement, who was then the first sitting Senator who support him. After all, as we've seen loyalty, according to the President, is important to him.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could use some more loyalty. I love loyalty. Loyalty can be a wonderful thing. Loyalty is very important. I'm loyal to a fault, I'm loyal. I'm a loyal person. Loyalty. You know, some of these people have like a 10 percent loyalty, meaning if they sneeze in the wrong direction, they're gone.


COOPER: Well, many now believe the President now wants Sessions gone. Joining me now is CNN Contributor Michael D'Antonio, Donald Trump Biographer and Jack Pitney, a POLITICO Magazine Contributor. He wrote an article for political called "Trump the Disloyalist."

Jack, you write in your piece that Sessions should not be surprised by Trump's behavior toward him. Can you explain why you think that?

JACK J. PITNEY JR., POLITICO MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: Trump is a guy who has betrayed contractors, customers, vendors, and wives. His wire careen is a long train of betrayals. And so why Sessions should think he's different and special is a mystery. He should have been more aware of Trump's history.

COOPER: Michael, I mean, you wrote the book on Trump. What does loyalty means to Trump?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not very much. It falls in one direction, toward him.

COOPER: You have to be loyal to him.

D'ANTONIO: Absolutely. And everything is transactional. So if you done one thing wrong, if you don't demonstrate a reversal the next day, you're out. You know, if I were to channel the President, what I would say about him is that he's a back stabber. He's a fair weather friend. He's a coward.

[20:45:06] Now, this is a guy who won't stand by the people he's made a commitment to and who have made a commitment to him. But this is nothing new about him. He, as Jack said, wasn't loyal to two lives. He's now on his third. I think he's doing pretty well there. But he's stiffed thousands of bond holders who invested in Trump casinos. All these contractors, the people who signed up for Trump University, one after another, I mean, political parties, he was in the reform party, then it was Republican, then it was a Democrat, now it's Republican again. Where is the loyalty here? I think it all runs in one direction.

COOPER: But, Jack, is this just politics, thought? Is anyone in politics when push comes to shove truly loyal, is it almost everything based on self-interest or furthering a political agenda?

PITNEY: Well, in politics there is a sense of loyalty. You stick with a party, you stick with commitments. And in the places where I've worked in Albany and Washington, D.C., the highest praise you can give to a politician is that that person is a straight shooter. Yes, sometimes people fall off the loyalty wagon, but in general, you just don't see the kind of behavior, the kind of massive dishonesty and disloyalty we see with Donald Trump.

COOPER: It is fascinating, Michael, I mean in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, I guess, just yesterday or two days ago, all blends (ph) together now. You know, Trump questioned Sessions, saying like it wasn't really so much a loyal thing. He basically saw the size of my crowd in Alabama and got on board because he just wanted to be amongst me.

D'ANTONIO: Well, one other thing, the President is not loyalty is the facts. Sessions won 97 percent of the vote the last time he ran. He didn't need any coat tails and he didn't look at these crowds and say, well, I want some of that.

COOPER: He had a secure seat and he also had seniority as a senator.

D'ANTONIO: He had a secure seat. He had seniority. He had more of what Donald Trump wanted than what Donald Trump could give to him. And so the President very eagerly accepted Sessions' endorsement, paraded him around the south, really around the whole country. And I would argue that a lot of people voted for President Trump because of the endorsement of Jeff Sessions.

So now we see this playing out in Congress with the former senator and now the attorney general getting lots of support. COOPER: And Michael, the irony of this is -- I mean, Jeff Sessions not only early on was the first senator to support Trump, but idealogically is probably more kind of idealogically connected to the President, then a lot of the people, that the President has around him. A of the people, the President has around him now were campaign officials for other candidates.

PITNEY: Well, Donald Trump doesn't care about trumpism. He only cares about Donald Trump. The principles, the idealogy, the policies, none of that matters to him. All that matters is his narrow, direct self-interests. And that's what we're seeing with his treatment of Jeff Session, which from a policy standpoint doesn't make sense at all.

COOPER: Michael D'Antonio, I appreciate you being with us. Jack Pitney as well, thanks.

Still to come, she was a Navy SEAL for more than 20 years and left the military and came out as transgender. I'll speak with Kristin Beck about today's ban by the President, next.


[20:51:03] COOPER: We have no details from the White House about how the ban the President announced on Twitter today will affect thousands of transgender military members who are currently serving. There's been no explanation. What we can do is speak to people who have served and served honorably, heroically. We're hearing Kristin Beck for a while now. She was a member of the navy elite SEAL team for more than two decades earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. She left the military in 2011 later came out as transgender. We did a documentary about her journey back in 2014. Here is a quick clip.


COOPER: It's got to be so sad to think that for 20 years you have to -- that you have this incredible bond with these people you're fighting with.


COOPER: And you want it to be the closest bond imaginable. And yet you can't really let yourself be yourself.

BECK: It's definitely tough. It's a -- and when you say, it's strength and honor, that's one of the ones that we do, when we shake hands, you know, we shake hands, we say, strength and honor. And that's still what I gave true. I gave true brotherhood. I did my best, 150 percent all the time. And I gave strength and honor. And my full brotherhood to every military person I ever worked with.


COOPER: I spoke with Kristin Beck just before airtime tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Kristin, the White House Press Secretary was repeatedly asked what will happen to those transgender members currently serving, if they would be forced out, and she couldn't answer that question. I know you have transgender friends who are currently serving. What are they saying? Do they know what's going to happen?

BECK: I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen. I mean, you see as I keep talking all the heads of staff, and every staffer, every branch in the military are totally blind sided. So this is unusual for such a major policy shift.

COOPER: What is the impact, do you think, for those service members who are transgender, who are serving and have been serving honorably?

BECK: Well, just like you've said just then, they've been serving honorably. They've been in war zones, back and forth a few times, a few of them. They're my friends. You know, those people who are serving on the front lines of American freedom and liberty.

And now they're going to be told that they're going to be rejected and unworthy to serve? I mean, it's a huge slap in the face. And the have contracts. So there's going to be a lot of repercussions. And you think it's expensive to pay for a few things for those individuals? This will get real expensive, really fast.

COOPER: The President tweet today read it in part that the military "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs in disruption of transgender in the military would entail." What do you think would taking transgender military members of out of the service actually look like? I mean, you talk about disruption, to use the President's word.

BECK: You used the exact word, disruption. I have a one particular friend who is in the army, and she speaks Farsi, Arabic and five other languages. And she's been in the war zone a couple of times. You know, back and forth, she is immensely capable. How will you replace that person? All that experience and all those language skills, and I can give you dozens and dozens of accounts of people with that kind of experience.

If you had me right now serving in a military, you can't replace a senior chief, you can't replace all that experience and that's very difficult replacement. So you're talking about some huge disruptions.

COOPER: The President, according to the White House Press Secretary, concluded that having transgendered individual in the military code erodes military and unit cohesion. That's a quote. I wonder what your reaction to that, I mean, that's an argument that's been made, frankly, for, you know, whether or not to have African-American serving in the military, and then whether to have openly gay people serving in the military, gay and lesbian people. So does it affect unit cohesion?

BECK: Well, you brought up the exact points. I mean, this is the 1950s, going back to segregation. You're going in a don't ask, don't tell era. I mean, it's nothing ever happened. When we integrated the military and everything was better, the diversity makes us stronger. The diversity is what we need. So it's same thing. These are excuses. This is some kind of -- something's going on. And it has nothing to do with unit cohesion, readiness, or their capability. It's nothing to do with that.

[20:55:07] COOPER: You know, I mean, undoubtedly there are members of the military who are not comfortable having transgendered individuals serving with them. When you were serving, you weren't open to your fellow SEALS. What do you say to those who say, well, look, if some members of the military are upset about it, then it is going to affect cohesion?

BECK: Well, and that's the thing that they're overlooking is what really is at that lowest level, at the company or platoon level? You know, once you start serving with folks, if you sit around me just for a couple of hours, let's go out on the ranch, and we'll do a little bit planking, just some shooting, you'll going to find that I'm the same person. And they're basing their data. They're basing their emotions on misinformation. They're basing their emotions on a Fantasy Fest Parade with the person in a pink boa.

You know, that's one picture of transgender. But transgender is also me. Transgender is this picture. So don't base all your data on one thing. You know, I'm transgender. I'm capable to serve. I can serve right now. And I'll do it with great capabilities that would surprise you. They're giving up a lot. It's a catastrophe.

Kristin Beck, I appreciate your time, thank you.

BECK: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Up next tonight, the latest from the White House on this transgender ban, and more.