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Interview with Representative Tom Reed; Joint Chiefs Unaware of Transgender Ban Coming; Interview with Kirsten Gillibrand; Connecticut Father Fights Deportation; Tension Builds Inside White House Over Leaks; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 27, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] REP. TOM REED (R), CO-CHAIRMAN, PROBLEM SOLVERS CAUCUS: It's his ability and authority as the commander-in-chief to make those calls and I respect that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Skinny repeal. Those are the two words being discussed right now in the Senate. Maybe passing a version of health care that gets rid of mandate but doesn't touch anything else. Something you can get behind?

REED: Well, you know, I've got to see what the final Senate bill is. You know, obviously, I want to fix the problem when it comes to the individual marketplace. We're working across the aisle. There's 44 of us, 22 Dems, 22 Republicans, spent late last night working on this in detail.

Focus should be right now, if we're not going to repeal and replace, we should stabilize the individual market because those are real Americans that did nothing to cause this problem on their laps. So we need to fix it for them.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, you know, some of those CBO numbers on that, as far as the individual market, it will increase premiums by some 20 percent and, you know, and 15 million people or so would be off the roll. So in terms of how we're addressing the individual market, the skinny repeal might not be the way to go.

Congressman Tom Reed, in Newark, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

REED: Thanks. Thanks for having me on.

BERMAN: All right. We are waiting to hear from the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Will he respond to these charges from the communications director, seeming to accuse him of being a leaker? We have our eyes on the White House right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, as we just discussed, caught off guard. CNN has learned the Joint Chiefs, well, they were not aware that the president was going to tweet this new policy on transgender service members. Reaction next from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who calls the ban appalling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:35:51] HARLOW: Some important and stunning new developments on the president's abrupt decision to ban all transgender Americans from serving in the military. CNN has just learned that the Joint Chiefs of Staff including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs had no idea that this announcement was coming. This according to three U.S. Defense officials.

BERMAN: This is important for a variety of reasons but one of them is because the president himself said that this decision was made after consultation with his generals. So which generals? Now the Pentagon is demanding answers.

CNN's Barbara Starr is there. Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we are learning is indeed the Joint Chiefs, including the chairman, did not know yesterday morning that this tweet would be coming. It has been extremely disruptive, I can tell you, in the Pentagon as they scramble to figure out the next steps ahead. And really, yesterday, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, pretty much laid it out.

If you missed it, what she said is when the president made the decision yesterday -- she's speaking yesterday, she means Tuesday. So when the president made the decision Tuesday, the secretary of Defense was immediately informed as were the rest of the National Security team that had been part of this ongoing conversation.

So Defense Secretary James Mattis informed after the president made the decision. The Joint Chiefs not knowing this tweet was coming. And now, today, we have seen firsthand the scramble is on in the military to figure out what the president really means. How do you turn a tweet into actual military -- legal military policy?

We have heard now from the chief of Personnel for the United States Navy, Admiral Burke. He has put out a memo to his troops saying a couple of very key things. One, no personnel actions will be taken against anybody until they have clear guidance on a way ahead on all of this. Nobody is getting booted out at this point. Medical care will be maintained for transgender persons, getting medical care.

And while it's unclear what happens now to those currently serving, the Navy saying all sailors will be treated with dignity and respect. We know other services are working on similar guidance, even as the Pentagon now is asking the White House to please put it on paper. What does the president actually want to have happen here -- John, Poppy.

HARLOW: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much for that reporting. Significant indeed.

Our next guest says the president's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military is harmful, misguided, and she said she is doing everything she can to fight it, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joins now. She is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And it is nice to have you on. Your words, appalling, at the

president's decision and you are working on legislation to try to prevent this, working across aisles, specifically with Senator John McCain. What can you tell us about that?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, I've got to tell you, Poppy, I think what the president did is outrageous. These are men and women who woke up that morning, put on their uniforms, went to duty to do the work of protecting this country only to find out by Twitter that their president doesn't want their service.

I can't think of something more disrespectful, more outrageous. There are thousands of men and women in the military, serving today, in all capacities who are doing extraordinary service for this country, who were just belittled, berated and devalued by the commander-in-chief.

I can't think of something less patriotic. I am beside myself in concern for these troops and for the disarray and the dysfunction the president is creating. I think it's outrageous he didn't consult with General Mattis and his commanders before doing this. In fact there's an ongoing study that General Mattis had asked for to consult before he made a recommendation to the president.

I just think it's wrong. And it's going to harm the military. It's going to make our military weaker, not stronger.

BERMAN: Do you think it's within his power and his authority as commander-in-chief to do it, though, Senator?

GILLIBRAND: Well, I don't know. It may well be unconstitutional?

[10:40:03] We don't know and we have to look at this. But I'm going to work very hard to write legislation to say that you cannot discriminate against our troops in this way. It is wrong to discriminate against our troops. It's wrong to discriminate against men and women who are serving today while literally willing to sacrifice their lives for this country. It's wrong. It's morally wrong.

HARLOW: Senator, you see what's happening among your Republican counterparts in the Senate right now, focusing on the skinny repeal. Now that would do a number of things. It would get rid of the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the tax on medical devices. It would not touch the Medicaid expansion that you are so supportive of.

So could you live with this or a version of it?

GILLIBRAND: No, I could not live with this version of it because what it's going to do is harm a lot of New Yorkers. New York has analyzed this already. They believe it will raise rates on all people who buy insurance by 30 percent. That may be well unaffordable for a lot of families who need basic health care.

I think it's a destructive proposal. I think it's very harmful and I think we need to fight back because we need affordable care in this country. And there's a lot of better ways to get there than this.

BERMAN: We will see what bill ends up on the floor as the day continues. We're looking at live pictures beside you right now of the debate that is happening on health care. But if I can just take your take quickly on what's been going on in the White House this morning. I mean, after the fighting between the president and his attorney general, this morning we have fighting between the president's communications director and the chief of staff. Your take on what this does to the business of the country.

GILLIBRAND: I have to tell you, I don't care about staff fighting with one another, especially on the day when they're literally trying to take away health care from millions of America. It's irrelevant and I don't think anyone should be focusing on it. I don't care about staff disputes. That's not what we're here to do. We're here to help people.

HARLOW: Senator Gillibrand, let's talk with the Family Act. This is a paid family leave act that you have been pushing for years, but now the proposal is even more concrete. You're getting some help from across the aisle. This would essentially be 12 weeks of paid leave for mothers and fathers, people to help their elderly parents, et cetera.

It would mean a tax, about $4 a week for employees, matched by employers. Can you get that, that tax? Do you have enough Republican support to get this through a Republican-led Congress?

GILLIBRAND: I think you can. And people across America already support a national paid leave plan. We already have three states that have been working exceedingly well. If you look at California, they have this kind of paid leave for 10 years. Employers, 90 percent of them said it had no negative impact, very positive impact on their bottom line. And 99 percent of employers said it improved moral and retention.

So it works. People like it. And it's such a small amount of money. It's $2 a week for you to put in, $2 a week for your employer to put in on average. $104 a year, that's affordable. That's something that everyone can afford that. And so I think this is common sense. And this is the kind of work we should be doing.

And I have been reaching across the aisle, meeting with my Republican colleagues to find a lead Republican sponsor and because the American people are behind us, I'm optimistic I will get one this year.

BERMAN: Do you think you have an ally inside the White House and the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump?

GILLIBRAND: Well, certainly Ivanka has been very public her support for national paid leave plan. I don't think her plan goes far enough, but I'm certainly going to work with anybody who's willing to put a robust plan in place.

You have to make sure you can be with your elderly parents or with a child who is ill or a spouse who can't work in those weeks or months after a surgery or an accident. And so it has to be for all family members in your own, you know, terrible, physical events as well. And so it's not just about babies, it's about leave for all of us. And we need it for our family and being able to keep putting food on the table for that family, and not have to quit your job and go into poverty or not be able to care for your loved ones.

HARLOW: But before we go very quickly, it sounds like you are more hopeful in this White House because of Ivanka Trump. Is that fair?

GILLIBRAND: I was really hopeful given all her speeches on the campaign trail. I just hope we can put it in policy with our president.

HARLOW: All right.

BERMAN: All right. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate your time, Senator.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.

BERMAN: The senator doesn't like staff fights, inside the White House right now.

HARLOW: Focusing on those issues that so many Americans are worried about.

BERMAN: You do wonder, though, whether the White House and the staff fights we're also focused on the issues simultaneously.

HARLOW: Right. Good point.

BERMAN: All right. The father of two young children, the husband of an American wife forced to make a choice. Buy a one-way ticket to Guatemala or face deportation. His story is next.


[10:48:50] BERMAN: All right. A rally is set for today for a Connecticut father who faces deportation. Democratic senators from Connecticut are now getting involved for a family who's on the verge of separation.

Joel Colindres crossed the border illegally through Texas a decade ago. But after that, he says he did everything right while working towards his green card.

HARLOW: Last week, his request to stay in the U.S. was denied. His case is one of thousands playing out across the country.

Alexander Marquardt reports.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joel Colindres is putting the finishing touches on a playhouse. But he doesn't know whether he'll be around to see his kids use it. After 13 years in the U.S., Colindres was told last week to buy a one-way ticket back to Guatemala.

JOEL COLINDRES, FACING DEPORTATION: I was about to cry but I keep myself strong for my wife. United States she had a hard time. She almost dropped herself on the ground and he started screaming, crying.

MARQUARDT: At 20 years old, he'd crossed from Mexico illegally, but told he could stay provisionally. His mistake, missing a critical court date.

SAMANTHA COLINDRES, HUSBAND FACES DEPORTATION: He had the dream to leave where he was because it was really dangerous over there and he wanted to come over here.

MARQUARDT: Joel fell in love with Samantha, who's American. They had Preston and Lila, living a quiet life in suburban Connecticut. Until now.

[10:50:06] S. COLINDRES: I took that risk. It's kind of what you do for love. I didn't know he had a deportation order. None of us did.

MARQUARDT: For years, Colindres has worked as a carpenter, paying his taxes and never breaking the law.

J. COLINDRES: I'm trying to make a life better for my family. That's all I'm trying to do. Working hard every day, you know, working six days a week and being here, trying to, you know, fix up the house at the same time. It's very hard. But, you know, I have so many dreams. And now there's no hope for it.

MARQUARDT: The Colindres' story is far from unique. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has been trying to help them and others in similar situations.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It's unfair and unwise. We are losing great talents and energy and we're ripping apart families. We're tearing apart communities. And that is a tragedy for our nation. It's traumatic for them and we need to do something better in accordance with American values.

MARQUARDT: President Trump has long vowed to be tougher on illegal immigration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to get the bad ones out, the criminals, and the drug dealers and gangs and gang members, and cartel leaders.

MARQUARDT: Arrests nationwide of undocumented immigrants have spiked over 20,000 in the first few weeks of the Trump presidency. Overall up by 33 percent. Arrests of noncriminals, more than doubling.

BLUMENTHAL: There are hundreds and maybe thousands in Connecticut and many, many more around the country that find themselves in this trauma and tragedy. The fundamental unfairness of it ought to strike the hearts of Americans. The trauma and tragedy can be avoided.

MARQUARDT: For Colindres, it's these moments with his children that make his legal limbo all the more real and painful.

J. COLINDRES: I have no idea, you know. At this point, it's very, very hard to hide it, you know. But try my best.

MARQUARDT (on camera): This is the hardest part? It's them?

J. COLINDRES: Yes. It is them, of course. You know, how you can leave those, you know, behind?

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Alex Marquardt, CNN, New Fairfield, Connecticut.

J. COLINDRES: Love you, buddy.


BERMAN: The impact on real families right there.

All right. What's happening in the White House, not staying there. Two key figures in the West Wing in a battle right now. A very public battle. The communications director goes after the chief of staff. Will he respond? Stay with us.


[10:56:32] HARLOW: The West Wing or the wrestling ring? It is the key question this morning. Why? Because two key players in the White House are at odds, to put it lightly.

BERMAN: Yes. Communications chief Anthony Scaramucci going after the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, on the issue of leaks, doing it publicly and so said Anthony Scaramucci doing it after talking to the president.

Joining us now to discuss what is going on inside the White House right now, CNN's Jeremy Diamond.

Jeremy, you know, has Reince Priebus said anything since he was sort of knifed on CNN two hours ago?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We have not yet heard from Reince Priebus. I know that many of us here at CNN have reached out to him and his allies at the White House to get a sense of what exactly is going on because let's make clear what happened this morning on CNN with Anthony Scaramucci was nothing short of startling and, you know, another instance in which we're seeing how unconventional this White House is.

I think it is worth pointing out that Anthony Scaramucci went on CNN apparently with the blessing of the president to talk about not just leaks but to attempt to point the finger at Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, for some of those leaks without actually providing any concrete evidence. But it begs the question of what exactly is the difference between what Anthony Scaramucci did, beyond the fact that he was on the record on CNN, talking about this and the leaks about palace intrigue coming from anonymous staffers inside the White House?

If anything, it seems that what Scaramucci did this morning on CNN in the way in which he talked about Reince Priebus and the dysfunction -- laying bare the dysfunction of the White House, he did that more effectively and with greater impact than anything that any anonymous leaker could do.

HARLOW: He didn't talk in the interview, the half an hour plus interview, Jeremy, about the things of substance that this White House wants done so badly. I mean, after the president pleaded with the vice president yesterday to get health care through, get it done, get a win on the board for this White House, he could have spent more time talking about that. Politicians, you know, deflect us all the time and talk about what they want to talk about. He didn't do that.

DIAMOND: In many way, you know, I felt like I was transported back to the summer of 2015 when Donald Trump would phoned in for these long interviews on CNN to, you know, gripe about various candidates and certain things.

Anthony Scaramucci and in the way that he sounded also talking about I'm not a politician, I'm a businessman, he was very much a Trump mini-me on TV. And it also goes to show that this kind of unconventional way of approaching these leaks, well, what are we talking about right now? We're talking about leaks. And so that is ultimately the kind of Trump strategy here is approach an issue from an unconventional manner, a brash -- with a brash tone perhaps and you draw attention to that issue at the same time.

BERMAN: You know, any sense that -- we have about 40 seconds left here, that any of the information that was published that Scaramucci is so upset about was illegally leaked? Isn't it all public record?

DIAMOND: It's not clear right now how it was obtained. Well, what is clear is that this financial disclosure form at some point would have become public. This is a matter of public record. Reince Priebus, other White House officials, who have filled out these financial disclosure forms, those have been published by the White House. So that much is clear, John.

HARLOW: Jeremy Diamond, thank you for joining us this morning. And thank you all for watching. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" who will take calls from Reince Priebus starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Anytime, anywhere, John. Thank you, John. Thank you, Poppy.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.