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White House Infighting Escalates; North Korea Nuclear Fears; Stunning Republican Failure on Health Care Reform. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 28, 2017 - 15:00   ET




REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You have to accept the fact that there is 1,000 opinions. I mean, so, I'm so used to it, that I don't -- I don't even care. It doesn't bother me.

QUESTION: You're not pulling out your hair.

PRIEBUS: Not -- no, I'm not.

People assume, oh, you must be miserable. You got a horrible job. But I don't see it that way. I'm not -- that's what I'm saying. I'm not pouring Baileys in my cereal. I'm not sitting here trying to find the Johnnie Walker. This is fun.


QUESTION: Is it Baileys in his Fruit Loops now, Jamie?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's Baileys. I think it's Johnnie Walker. I think he's pulling out his hair.


GANGEL: I don't think he's having fun, is the bottom line. Just to put this in some context, we're only six months in.


GANGEL: This is not the first go-round where Reince Priebus is out and there are all of these rumors that he's not long for this job, and his allies are pushing back, saying he's not going anywhere.

That said, the level of the rumors, the dysfunction, the push is certainly different this week than we have ever heard before.

But let's not forget, he serves at the pleasure of one person. That's Donald Trump, and that's when we will know if he's in the job or if he's out.

BALDWIN: Yes. Ladies, thank you so much.

Not enough time. Let's talk more Scaramucci, the Mooch, next week. LOPEZ: Any time you want.

BALDWIN: OK. Thank you so much.

Let's continue on, hour two.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We continue on. You're watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We have more now on the stunning defeat of the Republicans' effort to repeal Obamacare. Moments ago, President Trump, going off-script, sounding off against Congress.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They should have approved health care last night, but you can't have everything. Boy, oh, boy. They have been working on that one for seven years. Can you believe that? The swamp.

But we will get it done. We're going get it done. You know, I said from the beginning let Obamacare implode and then do it. I turned out to be right. Let Obamacare implode.


BALDWIN: "Let Obamacare implode," he says.

In the end, it was just 19 seconds that dashed the seven years of hope. After debating into the wee hours of the morning, it was Senator John McCain right there who shocked a lot of his colleagues on the Republican side, casting the third no vote, giving the dramatic thumbs down on the Senate floor.

There you go.

Joining me more to talk about this and what happens next for health care in this country, Jake Tapper, host of "STATE OF THE UNION" and "THE LEAD."

Jake Tapper, what do you make of the president first off just there in Long Island saying, let Obamacare implode?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I mean, as a policy, it's not really optimal.

I mean, Obamacare is failing in several parts of the country, with premiums going up, with very few options, with health insurance plans withdrawing from the exchanges. And the idea of letting it implode means millions of Americans continuing to have skyrocketing premiums or have very few, if any, options when it comes to health care.

It means, let Americans suffer. So it's not really a policy prescription in any sense. BALDWIN: On health care, we just played the moment, the thumbs down

with Senator McCain. There's so many story lines, you know, President Obama's former opponent saving Obama's signature piece of legislation or coming back from cancer diagnosis to cast this deciding vote, or the senator who hasn't seen eye to eye with President Trump delivering a major blow to his agenda two years and a week from Donald Trump saying he wasn't a hero.

Whatever it is, did it seem that Senator McCain took one for the team, defending other senators who have been vulnerable for voting yes? How do you see that?

TAPPER: From talking to people around McCain, it really comes down to the idea of his lack of confidence in the process and the fact that there was this possibility out there that so-called skinny repeal, which was ultimately what the Republicans were voting for, except for three of them, and the Democrats were voting against., skinny repeal -- that's banning any federal dollars going to Planned Parenthood, the repeal of the individual mandate, the repeal of the employer mandate, and also the removal of the medical device tax -- that that -- the fear that that would actually become the health care law.

That was what McCain was concerned about. Obviously, we know all the back and forth. The Democrats -- I'm sorry -- the Republicans in the House passed their bill. Republicans in the Senate couldn't come up with one.


The pitch was to Republicans, just pass skinny repeal, and then we will have a conference committee, where Republicans in the House and Senate will sit down and actually write legislation.

But Speaker Paul Ryan would not really guarantee and could not, could not really guarantee that skinny repeal wouldn't just be passed by the House and then signed by President Trump and become law.

And that was what McCain was really worried about. He did not want -- he didn't trust this idea that it was just going to be a vessel or a vehicle for this big successful Republican health care legislation that would come down the pike through conference committee.

He was afraid that it was going to be a trap, that ultimately House Republicans were just going to pass skinny repeal, President Trump would sign it into law, they would be able to check the box, we repealed Obamacare, we did this successful thing, and that, ultimately, it was lousy legislation.

So that's why he voted the way he did.

BALDWIN: So that's the why on Senator McCain. But what about the other two no's? You had two ladies, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, also no's as well. Just want to mention that.

And between this, Jake, and then the Russian sanctions bill, and the defense of the A.G., Jeff Sessions, it seems like more and more Republican lawmakers are starting to stand up to the president, stand up to the White House.

TAPPER: Yes, it's not as surprising from Collins and Murkowski, who have been more mavericky...

BALDWIN: Mavericky.

TAPPER: ... than even John McCain in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to health care legislation.

Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have been expressing a lot of concerns about original drafts of the bill that took away funding for Medicaid, the health program, the government health program for poorer people and for disabled people.

They expressed concern about banning -- not allowing women to spend their Medicaid dollars to get checkups or birth control with Planned Parenthood. There are a lot of things that they were upset about.

What's more surprising is when you see Dick Shelby, the Republican of Alabama, or Chuck Grassley, the Republican of Iowa, who's chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, those gentlemen saying things to the White House like, I'm not going to confirm another attorney general. That's not what the Judiciary Committee's doing. Or their deep offense they have taken at the way President Trump has been treating Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, of course, is a former colleague of theirs.


TAPPER: That's where you see a lot of these Republicans starting to stand up.

And then, of course, very significantly is this Russia sanctions bill which passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly with veto-proof majorities and then some, even though the White House has been lobbying against it.

There's a real lack of confidence expressed in what President Trump's doing in any number of these incidents that I just mentioned.

BALDWIN: Thus the more and more people standing up against him. Jake Tapper, thank you so much for all that. We will see you, as we always do, on "THE LEAD" at the top the of the hour. Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Let's talk North Korea now.

The Pentagon is telling CNN that Pyongyang has fired another ballistic long-range missile, this one up in the air for about 45 minutes, about eight minutes longer than the last, landed just about 80 miles off the coast of Japan.

Kim Jong-un has now launched a dozen missiles this year, and this comes as fears grow about progress toward developing a nuclear weapon. CNN's Will Ripley is live in Beijing. He has spent a lot of time

inside of North Korea. And Jamie Metzl is here with me, a former staff member on the National Security Council and a senior fellow on the Atlantic Council. And he's also just back from China, where he held meetings about the future of North Korea.

So, Will Ripley, just first to you, tell me more about the trajectory of this ICBM, the significance that it was so close to Japan, and any sort of reaction.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: South Korea's saying, Brooke, that this is more advanced than the ICBM that was launched on the Fourth of July.

Its highest altitude was 3,700 kilometers, around 2,300 miles. It traveled a distance of about 1,000 kilometers, landing within 100 nautical miles of Japan in those waters known as the Exclusive Economic Zone.

This trajectory is significant because they launched it really high and then it kind of went over and down like this, but had it been launched at a normal trajectory, it could have put much of the United States within striking range. We're talking about cities as far away as Denver, maybe even Chicago.

And, of course, the analysts have been saying now, at the State Department, that, by early next year, so a matter of months from now, North Korea could have a reliable ICBM, so a missile they could launch at any moment that could carry a nuclear warhead to the mainland U.S. with pretty decent accuracy.

That's very frightening for people who are watching North Korea and weren't even predicting this rapid of pace of a development even as recently as six months ago, Brooke.


BALDWIN: That's -- Jamie, good to see you.


BALDWIN: That's when people's ears start to perk, though, when they hear cities Denver and Seattle thrown in the mix.

First, just your response to again yet another ICBM test, but also the fact that it went higher, was up in the air longer, which change the arithmetic around, it can go much farther out.

METZL: So, it's very, very clear North Korea's goal in this is to develop a deliverable nuclear weapons capability capable of hitting anywhere in the United States, and, frankly, that means anywhere in the world.

So, each one of these incremental steps is an increase, but the core problem is the same today as it was yesterday, which is that North Korea has an advanced missiles program, an advanced nuclear weapons program, and that's all going to come together into more and more and greater and greater precision in their ability to deliver these deadly payloads.

And that leads us, again, to this same situation about what needs to be done. The Trump administration policy has been a total tatters. There's no known policy. The United States has weakened its critical alliances with South Korea and Japan. It's undermined its leverage with China.

BALDWIN: What about China? You were just there.

METZL: Yes, I was just there and I was speaking to top Chinese leaders.

BALDWIN: Did they say?

METZL: And what they were saying was, well, this is your problem. The United States needs to do more.

BALDWIN: Your problem? Check the geography.

METZL: Exactly. That's exactly what I was saying to them, because North Korea nuclear weapons, we need to -- the United States will continue to do more of what we have been doing, which is try, in spite of the problems we're having under this administration, to strengthen and shore up our alliances, rebalancing of military assets, building of our strategic missile defense capabilities.

All of those things weaken China. And if North Korea develops -- further develops its nuclear weapons, there's going to be a lot of pressure, as there is now on South Korea and then possibly Japan, to develop their nuclear weapons. And that makes that environment much more complicated.

And so the Chinese really need to step up in a much bigger way than they have so far.

BALDWIN: All of this as the U.S. has shortened our own timetable and calendar of when we think they will be nuclear-capable. That said, we wait for more fallout and the response for President Trump. Thank you so much, Jamie, for coming by. Appreciate it.

And, Will Ripley, for all your trips to North Korea, we thank you as well.

Ahead here, two of the people closest to the president in this feud -- we have new reporting today about the fate of the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and the vulgar attack he received from the new guy at the White House.

Plus, Russia retaliating as Congress sends a new sanctions bill to the president's desk. The key question, this is what Jake Tapper was alluding to, will he sign it?

And from the Boy Scouts speech to the president declaring himself as the most presidential president ever, let's take a look back at the week that was, a week that might have been his wildest yet.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN.

To the continuing chaos within the White House. Ah, to be a fly on the wall during the flight the president just took to Long Island here in New York, because on this very plane was Anthony Scaramucci, the White House communications director, and the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, as this whole rivalry has taken a new, ugly turn.

"The New Yorker," if you have not read this, start reading it now, just released, this vulgarity-laced interview Scaramucci gave to its correspondent Ryan Lizza. Scaramucci called Reince Priebus a paranoid schizophrenic and used R-rated insults against chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The Mooch, as he refers to himself, later tweeted this -- quote -- "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena, but not give up the passionate fight for Donald Trump's agenda."

Sara Murray is at the White House for us today.

Sara, any word on the flight and how these two managed that?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Brooke, wouldn't you have loved to be on the plane with the two of them?


MURRAY: This is not the large Air Force One. This is the smaller Air Force One, so, you know, not that many places to escape from one another.

And we have not heard exactly how that flight went. They did not seem to want to comment, apparently, as they deplaned when they were arriving in New York.

But, look, I think it's so striking that you have had this public feud. You have had Anthony Scaramucci say these horrific things about the chief of staff and the chief strategist. What we have not heard is President Trump come to the defense of his chief of staff.

Now, of course, a lot of tongues have been wagging over these last couple of days, and there have always been rumors that Reince Priebus could soon be out the door here at the White House, and those rumors are starting once again, wondering what is the face of a chief of staff if he's allowing someone like the White House communications director to say things about them, no defense from the president?

Now, allies to Priebus insist he's not stepping down, he's not resigning. He's staying here. His position is safe. They point to the fact that he accompanied the president to New York as an indication of that, but it just sort of gives you a sense of how dysfunction continues to reign in this White House.

And it's not happening while the president's priorities are being executed upon side-by-side. We saw this health care bill go down in a week where there has been epic backbiting here in the West Wing.

So, it makes you wonder how long all this can continue with all these gentlemen working together under the same roof.

BALDWIN: No comment on the smaller plane, and certainly that also means no public apology either.

Sara Murray, I know you're watching for it. Thank you so much at the White House.

And, listen, if this is like the "Game of Thrones" over there, we will talk live with a former deputy chief of staff at the White House and a campaign chief who can explain why the leaks here will not stop.



BALDWIN: Conflict seems to be consuming the Trump White House.

Not only is the new White House communications director picking a fight with the president's chief of staff, as this photo from "The Wall Street Journal" seems to perfectly sum up their chilly relationship, but the list of White House officials at odds with the president himself is growing.

The Trump feuds now include -- we have photos for you -- Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, his acting FBI director, Andy McCabe, and his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

With me now, Alex Conant, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee in the White House and the former communications director for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, and Henson Moore, who served as deputy chief of staff for George H.W. Bush and was a former Louisiana congressman.

Gentlemen, welcome.



BALDWIN: Alex, to you first. And I know you wrote all about leaks, but I just have to ask, just talking to Sara Murray over at the White House on all things Scaramucci and Priebus, you know, according to the pool, when Scaramucci was asked about his comments on Priebus and Bannon, he said -- quote -- "Better not to comment." Do you think this is a guy who's going to apologize?

CONANT: I mean, obviously, he should apologize. Look, I don't understand how he can get on an airplane with Reince Priebus, let alone look him in the eye, after those comments were printed, and he hasn't apologized for them.


To me, that -- I don't know how you move forward without acknowledging that those comments were totally inappropriate and that the chief of staff is owed an apology.

I mean, obviously, there are much deeper issues at play here, but just as a man, I would think that he would want to apologize to Reince Priebus for it.

BALDWIN: Mr. Moore, you served as deputy chief of staff under Bush 41, and, by now, we're familiar with this colorful language that Scaramucci used in this "New Yorker" interview.

Maybe we have never seen a communications director use this kind of language publicly, but it's my understanding you say every White House has tensions like this.

MOORE: Yes, there's really no news in the fact that you have people unhappy in the White House, and some would even go so far as to leak information from the White House. It's not good.

It ought to be controlled. It undermines the ability of president to get his job done. But it happens. And what people on the White House staff tend to forget is they're not there because they're the smartest people in the world. They're there to help a president. And they should be thinking about the president and what's good for the president every day.

And when they start leaking or they start squabbles within the White House, they're obviously following an agenda other than that, in my opinion.

BALDWIN: Hopefully, they're pretty smart too, if this is the White House.

But we know in this interview with Scaramucci, Alex, he said it was the leaks coming out of the White House and the intel community that really irked him the most. And he says, maybe I will just fire them all. You know, he's working hard to end the leaks, but, you know, in a sense, you want to say, welcome to Washington, sir. I mean, is that even a possibility?

CONANT: Yes, so I wrote a piece in Politico today, actually, about this very issue.

He can't just fire everybody and expect the leaks will stop, because, look, all political organizations leak to a certain degree. The ones that leak the most do so because they lack unity, they lack loyalty, and they lack self-discipline.

And, clearly, this White House lacks all three of them. And, frankly, it's because of the president's own behavior. He has not given his White House team a unifying principle, beyond just defending his own reputation.

He clearly doesn't inspire loyalty in people, because loyalty's a two- way street. The way he's treated Reince Priebus and his attorney general does not instill loyalty in others.

And, finally, it's no secret that the president himself often has off- the-record conversations with reporters where he says more than he should. If the president himself is leaking to reporters, as he does, then it's hard to expect his staff not to follow his example.

BALDWIN: Well, let's just -- you know, let's get some perspective of previous White Houses and how this worked.

I mean, Henson, to my understanding, you have some pretty great stories on how, you know, President Bush and how he dealt with leaks within his own White House. How did Bush Sr. keep this under wraps?

MOORE: Well, basically, the first thing is, the staff has to realize they're not serving the president well.

Secondly, my experience, we should see a very strong chief of staff, and I'm not commenting on the current one. I'm simply saying the one I saw work in internally in Jim Baker. He had the complete support of the president. He and the president were very close friends.

Therefore, President Bush could turn over the total running of the White House to Jim Baker. Jim Baker, in turn, very carefully controlled the staff. You only knew what you needed to know to get your job done. There were just a handful, a small group of people around Jim Baker that knew everything that was going on.

Therefore, if there was any kind of leak, or any kind of trouble, Jim Baker knew exactly where it came from. Consequently, there wasn't any. He actually brought order, and he brought discipline to a White House that needed it at a time in 1992 when things were pretty tough for President Bush.

I think that Donald Trump, President Trump, is in the same place now. He's having a hard time getting his administration running smoothly, partly because this is new to him. It seems to be new to a lot of the people around him in the White House. And some discipline needs to be brought. And it needs to be brought differently.

BALDWIN: What would that be? If I may just jump in, what advice? What would that discipline look like? What advice would you have for this current White House?

MOORE: Well, I think that President Trump needs to sit down and figure out who's really close to him. And he's got give them, that person, the power to really run the White House, and then he needs to also agree that only a few people need to be brought in on everything. And, therefore, you limit the amount of people involved in something,

and you therefore limit the ability for any kind of meaningful leak to the press. And that's one way you get it done, and that's the way I saw it done.


BALDWIN: Mr. President, are you watching? Are you watching?

Yes, yes, yes, Alex, quickly, go ahead.

CONANT: No, I was just going to say, I largely agree with what -- with what he just said.

You need to have one person who's in charge.