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Pentagon Requests Transgender Policy; Scaramucci on Priebus and Leaks; Senators Shift to Skinny Repeal; Ride Breaks at Ohio State Fair. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 27, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:09] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning, the Pentagon wants answers one day after it was blind-sided by the president's decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So now the Pentagon is asking the White House for a formal written directive of what they're supposed to do next on this transgender policy so that the military can start implementing it.

Let's go to the Pentagon. That's where we find our Barbara Starr.

And, Barbara, you got your hands, this morning, on a fascinating memo from the chief of naval personnel to everyone below him saying what?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is beginning to lay out, like the other services are, the questions at hand. And that's why the Pentagon is asking the White House for some direction. What is the real intent of the president's tweet?

Military policy by Twitter is not really the way the U.S. military works. They want specific direction from the commander in chief. They want him to put pen to paper and say what his intent really is.

And one of the key questions that we're seeing emerge now is, does the president intend for transgendered persons who are currently serving to forcibly be pushed out of active duty, to be pushed out of the military? Will they get honorable discharges if that's what he wants so they can continue to get retirement and medical benefits based on their years of service?

So, the chief of naval personnel, and I think we can assume the other personnel chiefs pretty much doing the same thing, laying it out for the fleet in this memo we obtained. The admiral saying a couple of key things here. And let's -- we have some of this data to show you.

He is saying that no personnel action, no discharges, no personnel actions will be taken until there's guidance from the White House. Medical care will continue for transgendered persons currently receiving medical care. Their medical care will not be cut off. It will continue until there are some decisions about a way ahead. [09:35:10] And on the question of it being unclear what happens to

those currently serving, the chief of naval personnel making it abundantly clear that the intent and the direction is all those who serve will continue to be treated with dignity and respect. That there will be no change in that until all of this is sorted out.

John. Poppy.

HARLOW: It seems like just like that the White House is saying ask the Pentagon. The Pentagon is saying, White House, tell us what to do. And there are a lot of folks serving this country caught in the middle.

Barbara Starr, thank you for the reporting.

STARR: Sure.

HARLOW: Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy says the president has, quote, abandoned the transgender community with this move. He'll join us next.

BERMAN: And the White House communications director says the chief of staff needs to explain himself and he can decide whether to say is he a leaker. This morning, we are waiting to hear from Reince Priebus. Will he respond?

Stay with us.


[09:40:11] HARLOW: A public battle getting even more public and playing out live on the airwaves this morning. A battle royale between the communications director at the White House and the president's chief of staff.

BERMAN: Yes, this is how it started. Late last night the communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, seemed to go after Reince Priebus, writing, in light of the leak of my financial disclosure info, which is a felony, I'll be contacting the FBI and the Justice Department, #swamp. But the important part here, he tagged Reince Priebus, seeming to blame him.

Scaramucci on TV with CNN this morning added to that.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that.


BERMAN: All right, we want to discuss the goings on in the United States of America right now, which includes the goings on inside the West Wing.

Joining us, Congressman Joe Kennedy III, Democratic congressman from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

I know, you know, you don't work in the White House or run the White House, but we're all watching what's going on there this morning. I wonder if you -- we can get your reaction to this backstabbing or front stabbing from the communications director to the chief of staff.

REP. JOE KENNEDY III (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Look, it's not the way to run a rodeo, and it's certainly not the way to run a White House. I think the challenge that you're seeing play out on the airwaves today is something that we've seen in very real terms and added to impacts here in -- on Capitol Hill where many of us are trying to address the real concerns that are confronting American families across our country. Where these debates -- the debates that we need to be having, not about whether some White House staffer leaked something or whether the press was able enough to log on to a website and get a public disclosure.

And the fact that this is what the White House is choosing to focus on, rather than a North Korea nuclear program, rather than real attempts to actually strengthen our health care system and not take health care away from between the lowest estimate is 10, the highest estimate is 30 million Americans, trying to make sure that we maintain our military strength and not kicking thousands of our men and women in uniform out of the military service without even a decency -- the decency of a heads up.

Those are the real debates we should be having. It's not surprising at all in my mind that the White House would rather distract off of that and end up putting something like this forward. But it's a charade that distracts from where the real attention needs to be and what we should be doing.

HARLOW: You mentioned the president's announcement yesterday 24 hours ago that all transgender men and women, all transgender individuals have no place serving in any capacity in the military. And you chair the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force.

Now, the Pentagon is saying this morning, we didn't know this was coming and we can't implement it until you, the White House, tell us that you want us to do that. What is your reaction to this new policy handed down from the president?

KENNEDY: Look, our troops, the men and women in uniform, do not discriminate. They step forward and they pledge to give their lives to protect every single American. Not a question of race. Not a question of gender, gender identity. Not a question of religion or belief. To protect us all.

What the president did yesterday was indicate that he's not going to expressly dedicate himself to showing that same decency and dignity in return. It's dangerous. It gets the fundamental values I think in our country about not just inclusivity and diversity, but recognizing that if people are willing to step forward and say, I want to serve, that we want -- we want that dedication, we want that talent, we want that devotion. And without any sort of engagement in any real substantive debate by which, let me be clear, there isn't one to try to exclude people that are willing to serve and are able-bodied from the military, with a tweet, without discussing it with the Pentagon, without discussing it with Capitol Hill, decided to go it alone. And, in doing so, left thousands of American service members stranded and waiting in the wings. That's not the way you treat our military. And it doesn't make our country any stronger.

BERMAN: Congressman, we're going to move you along to another subject keeping you on your toes this morning. I want to talk about health care. Right now in the Senate they're talking about the so-called skinny repeal, getting rid of some of the mandates but not really changing anything else. Could you accept any kind of deal down the line that would remove the mandates but leave Medicaid expansion, which you care deeply about, in place?

KENNEDY: So, let's be clear, first off, about what skinny repeal actually is. Skinny repeal is a way to destroy individual market and destroy what health care actually is in this country and is another way of setting up a -- which the fundamental core of what every single Republican proposal has been so far, about setting up a system for the healthy and the wealthy and another system for everybody else.

What the proposal of skinny repeal means is that if you are healthy and well off, maybe you don't need insurance right now, but for everybody that does, your premiums are going to skyrocket. It's indicated that by some estimates CBO has said that 16 million people would lose access to their health insurance and premiums would go up by as much as 20 percent year on year.

[09:45:12] That is not the way you actually address the real health concerns that Americans have across the country. And there are real concerns here. Voting for this, whatever the end of -- or the end result's going to be in the Senate of what that bill looks like -- which, by the way, senators don't even know yet. But whatever that looks like means that it's going to come back to the House to engage in a conference where we cut -- Republicans in the house cut Medicaid by over $800 billion. So to say that voting on this doesn't touch Medicaid means that when it -- it's going to come to the House and it's going to come back and you're going to destroy it.

HARLOW: John's point is, as it stands, the skinny repeal wouldn't touch the Medicaid expansion that it is now.

But before you go, I do want to get you also on this because we thought it was interesting as we read some of your comments about the president over the past six months, you've been very critical of him, but you've been a little more conservative in your criticism, a different calculation than some of your Democratic colleagues have taken, like Senator Tim Kaine, for example, calling some of these actions treasonous. You've said, you have to recognize that he was elected because there's a large portion of our country that felt -- that believes that our system of government is not working for them. What approach should your party be taking to this president?

KENNEDY: So, I think a couple of things. One, you're right, the skinny repeal doesn't address Medicaid. But this is a step in a process. And the next step absolutely will. So we got to focus on that.

That does link to the broader question that you asked about what Democrats and what our government rite large needs to do. And that is address the concerns of our people. I think if you zoom out far enough, you see a passion, a concern, a worry, a fear from folks on the left, folks on the right and a lot of folks in the middle that say our government isn't addressing their concerns. And so they're doing what they can to try to make their feelings known to Congress. And you're ending up in this gridlock.

The most frustrating part about this from my perspective is, on a lot of these issues, there are, in fact, sufficient votes in the House of Representatives to move issues along that actually address the vast majority of these substantive concerns. We can't get there. There are plenty of Democrats that have made a pledge to try to make sure that every single American gets access to quality, affordable, accessible health care. That's what we want to do. That doesn't mean gutting it or taking health care away from up to 30 million people. That means trying to build on the progress that we've seen.

When you're looking at immigration reform, there's --

BERMAN: Right.

KENNEDY: There was an immigration reform bill that, in my first year here, that had veto proof majority in the Senate, and we couldn't even get a vote on it in the House. There are solutions here that we can move forward. Give us the chance to do it. And so far we haven't had it.

BERMAN: Congressman Joseph Kennedy III from Massachusetts, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate your time, congressman.

KENNEDY: Thanks for having me, guys. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right, this deadly accident at the Ohio State Fair. People sent flying up into the air on one of the most popular rides. The witnesses clearly shaken.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I heard a girl scream help and I look over and I seen someone fly out. And then I seen it slap to the ground.


[09:52:42] BERMAN: So, the Ohio State Fair reopens this morning, but all rides will remain closed after a deadly malfunction. The entire accident was caught on video. We're only going to show part of it because it is terrifying and graphic. One person was killed, several others hurt when a piece of the Fire Ball ride broke off.

HARLOW: So, Ohio Governor John Kasich is traveling to visit the sight later today. He's ordering an inspection.

Our Ryan Young is in Columbus with the latest on this absolutely tragic event.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just terrifying. And the people standing in line, of course, they had to witness all of this. You could tell how upset they were by this when you could hear the sounds in the background.

The fair is back open right now. But as you can see behind me, nothing is rolling. Nothing is really going on because those rides are shut down. But, you know, people are really thinking about to the -- about the victims in this one.


YOUNG (voice-over): Tragedy at the Ohio State Fair captured on this dramatic video showing the Fire Ball spinning and swinging before a piece of the structure breaks off, sending riders flying. Witnesses say some fell 20 or 30 feet on to the concrete below.

JENNIFER BODY, WITNESS: I heard a girl scream help and I look over and I see her fly off and then I see her flat to the ground.

YOUNG: The accident, leaving at least one dead and injuring several others, including some who are now in critical condition. A CNN affiliate reports the victims range in age from 13 to 41.

DEVRAY WILLIAMS, ON RIDE DURING ACCIDENT: They was stuck in a hole -- you know, you put over you, they were stuck in it. They couldn't move. And there was like her daughter, this girl's mom, I just remember the little girl's face, she was screaming for her mom.

YOUNG: Police on scene pushing fair goers back so medics could treat the injured.

DR. DAVID EVANS, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY WEXNER MEDICAL CENTER: This was a great force and a great mechanism, really consistent with a very high speed motor vehicle crash with an injection.

YOUNG: The cause of the malfunction, unclear. Safety inspectors emphasizing the right was cleared on Wednesday after being inspected multiple times in the last two days by multiple groups.

MICHAEL VARTORELLA, CHIEF RIDE INSPECTOR, AMUSEMENT RIDE SAFETY DIVISION: My children, by grandchildren ride this equipment. So our guys do not rush through this stuff. We look at it. We take care of it. And we pretend it's our own.

YOUNG: Ohio Governor John Kasich launching an investigation and offering his condolences.

[09:55:03] GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: It's a very tough day. It's a very tough night for the people of our state. You know, the fair is about the best thing in life. And -- and then tonight, with this accident, it becomes a terrible, terrible tragedy. (END VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG: John and Poppy, something to think about, the idea this is fair season across the country. There have been other rides just like this one in California. That ride has been shut down as this inspection continues to figure out exactly what happened. Just tragic.

BERMAN: All right, Ryan Young for us in Ohio. Thanks so much, Ryan. Just horrifying pictures and stories out of there.

All right, the new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, communicating pretty clearly this morning on television, on CNN, seeming to knife the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, essentially accusing him of being a leaker. We are waiting to hear from Reince Priebus. Will he respond?

Stay with us.