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Priebus Resigns As White House Chief of Staff; Kremlin Seizes U.S. Properties, Orders Diplomats to Leave; North Korea: Entire U.S. Mainland "Within Our Striking Range"; Man Allegedly Kills Wife on Cruise for Laughing at Him; McCain Votes Against GOP Obamacare Repeal; Priebus Resigns Amid West Wing War. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 29, 2017 - 17:00   ET



[17:00:14] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us this weekend. It may have been meant as a spoof, but about eight hours after "The New York Post" released this cover depicting the Trump White House as a game of survivor, the tribe had spoken.

The White House chief-of-staff Reince Priebus was out. John Kelly was in. And the questions of who can out spin, outwit and outlast just continue. Priebus is just the latest in a string of departures to rock the administration. Take a look at this. As CNN learns that the President also sought opinions about whether to keep another figure still walking the halls of the West Wing.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon. And sources tell CNN that the President was ultimately convinced getting rid of the former Breitbart exec but only damaged him with his base, so he stays for now. Now, all of these comes after a week that saw the President publicly thrashing his own Attorney General. With one Republican morning, there will be holy hell to pay if he's forced out too.

CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us live from Washington. Boris, Priebus was seen as a bridge of sorts between Trump and the Republican establishment. What could his departure now mean for trans-relation with those Congressional Republicans?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you said it, Ana, this is one last link between the RNC the establishment and the White House. Not only with Sean Spicer leaving about a week ago but now also Reince Priebus. The link between the RNC and the White House is greatly diminished. And it comes as you said during the week where that the President is attacking members of his own party on Twitter for the failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare and going after his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who's a beloved member of the GOP.

Taking a step back to the administration though, one of the criticisms that we have heard about Reince Priebus especially from new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is that he's too cozy with the press. Earlier this week, Scaramucci made the accusation that Reince Priebus was leaking information potentially hazardous to the President to reporters.

Wolf Blitzer got a chance to ask Reince Priebus about this. Listen to his response.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you the leaker in the White House?

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That's ridiculous, Wolf. Come on. Give me a break. I am going to get into his --

BLITZER: Why not respond to --

PRIEBUS: Because I'm not going to. Because it doesn't honor the President. I'm going to honor the President every day. I'm going to honor his agenda. And I'm going to honor our country. And I'm not going to get into all of this personal stuff. So --

BLITZER: Is there a leaking problem in the White House based on what you have seen?

PRIEBUS: Yes, I think that General Kelly should see if he can get to the bottom of it and figure it out.


SANCHEZ: One of the other criticisms that we have heard from those closest to the President about Reince Priebus is that he tried to contain the President so to speak. So now with his departure we can likely see more of what Anthony Scaramucci said a week ago during his first press conference as director of the White House communications office. Letting Trump be Trump -- Ana.

CABRERA: I guess that's assuming that John Kelly doesn't try to contain the President. We'll see. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly now takes over for Priebus starting Monday. We're learning talk to me about what we know about Kelly, how he may have a different dynamic with the President versus Priebus.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Ana. Secretary General John Kelly is the head of the Department of Homeland Security right now. He have's a four star general, a retired Marine Corps general. More than 50 years of military service. And he sacrificed quite a bit for his country. His son Robert Michael Kelly was killed in action in Afghanistan back in 2010. This is someone that has spent his life in service of this country and he's someone that's seen as a potentially stabilizing force for a White House that has been at the very least you can say in dysfunction recently.

CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez reporting. Thank you. So, with Kelly as the new chief of staff, speculation is now brewing over who takes over his old gig at the Department of Homeland Security. One name that has come up embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The same man Trump has spent the past week publicly shaming for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham pushing back on this idea. Sessions

having a new role, tweeting this. "AG Jeff Sessions has a good ring to it. Highly qualified, committed to the rule of law. Tough on crime and fiercely independent. DHS Secretary Jeff Sessions, doesn't sound right. It doesn't feel right. Bad idea."

I want to bring in our panel to discuss further, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic Ron Brownstein. And CNN political commentator and former chief-of-staff to Reince Priebus, Mike Shields. Welcome back, Mike. Ron, good to see you.

Mike, I'll start with you. Is this the way for Trump to solve a couple of big problems, this idea of Jeff Sessions maybe moving into a different role, getting an Attorney General then who has not recused himself and could fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller and then also appease the conservative base that has rallied behind Sessions?

[17:05:14] MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, real quick. I want to go back to something that Boris said. I thought it was a good point about President Trump's relationship with the RNC. I think it's worth remembering that Chairwoman Rhonda McDaniel was chosen by President Trump and I think those connections there are very strong. I think as Reince moves out of the White House, he will continue to advise the President on the RNC that he built.

But to this question, look, I don't know where this rumor came from. I don't know if it's an official thing or it's another leak. And someone has got to get to the bottom of that. I think it's actually a nonstarter. I don't believe that Attorney General Sessions will be at DHS. I don't know that he wants to go there. And I don't think that he -- you know, if the Senate is sort of telling him that they're not going to confirm him, maybe it was a trial balloon that was launched. But I frankly don't ever see this happening.

CABRERA: Okay. So, as you point out, there is nothing officially from the White House saying this is what the President is planning to do? That is very important to know. But Ron clearly this idea is out that we have Lindsey Graham even tweeting about it. But Sessions has made pretty clear how he feels about the criticism he endured from the President this week. Let's listen.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's kind of hurtful, but the President of the United States is a strong leader. I serve at the pleasure of the President.


SESSIONS: And if he wants to make a change, he can certainly do so and I would be glad to yield in that circumstance. No doubt about it.


CABRERA: Ron, is the President of the United States who put out the questions of Sessions' fate this week, through all of the tweets, the comments he made about how unhappy he was and disappointed he was with Sessions, what are the chances Sessions would take another job at another agency inside this administration should this rumor turn into reality?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, if you go back to square one last fall, blank piece of paper, it's a certain fit. People were discussing Jeff Sessions for that job originally because on immigration he was probably the member of Congress closest to the very hard line restrictionist views in either chamber that President Trump, you know, avowed during the campaign. But now, it is inextricably tied to the Russia investigation.

And unlike the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who essentially shrugged his shoulders last week when asked about possibly removing Sessions as Attorney General, Republicans in the Senate I think have sent a very clear signal. I mean, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley has said he's not holding hearings on a replacement for Jeff Sessions.

And obviously Lindsey Graham and others have warned that this could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency if he tries to move him out as a first step toward firing of the Special Counsel. So, I think the Senate Republicans have set a very clear red line. There's no guarantee that the President won't cross that red line. But there's no doubt that he has been kind of made aware of significant consequences of going down this road.

CABRERA: Mike, I want to come back to the latest shakeup, the chief of staff turnover. Let's talk about Reince Priebus. You know him very well personally. You were his chief of staff at the RNC. Now Priebus' exit interview so to speak with CNN Wolf Blitzer, he only had positive things to say about the President and his replacement. Let's listen.


PRIEBUS: And this not like a situation where there's a bunch of ill will feelings. This is -- I think good for the President. I think it's smart for him to pick General Kelly and I think that things are going to be run very well.


CABRERA: Do you believe him, Mike?

SHIELDS: Well, yes, I know it's true. And you know, look, let's look at what Reince was able to accomplish. When left the RNC, the Republican Party is electorally is literally stronger than it has ever been in the history of the party. And so it's a major accomplishment for him. He has deep connections with the Republican donors, he has deep connections with the Republican grassroots across the country and that's why the President wanted him at his side during the transition and at the beginning of his administration.

And I said Reince said that they talked many times about, hey, if we get to a point where you want to kind of go in a different direction and you don't need a chief of staff that has the skill set that I have, then it's like changing out a picture. You bring someone else in, and Reince would be glad to leave. So he went and resigned because the President was moving to a different place. And so, and I believe that he was very supportive of General Kelly coming in and they had talked about that. So, yes, Reince -- I know he -- I believe him because I know that he's telling the truth.

CABRERA: So you think he's happy with this decision? Did you have something you wanted to add there, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: I do. I mean, I think like the job -- first of all, you know, it's debatable whether he resigned, Mike. You know, a lot of discussion about whether it was resigned or pushed. It really doesn't matter. It's kind of in the gray area. But I think the job of the chief of staff in the White House really is a two faced job. On the one hand, you are the chief operating officer and you're required to build a process that produces the ability for the administration to consider its policy options in a structured and rational way.

General Kelly is probably going to be very good at that. But operating under the limitation that he has a principle, a president who simply does not want to abide in those kinds of boundaries and there are probably limits to how much structure you can put in the White House with Donald Trump at the head of it. But the other half of the job is in essence as a prime minister. The best chiefs of staffs have also been kind of legislative tacticians as well.

You think of Jim Baker, the goal standard and Rahm Emanuel when they passed health care. And that is clearly where the administration needs help. I mean, the health care bill was, you know a spectacular flameout, tax reform is a very difficult complex minefield. And on that front it's hard to imagine that General Kelly for all of his personal qualities is going to be that useful because it simply has not been his world throughout his adult life.

[17:10:45] CABRERA: And on that point, the President is tweeting about his agenda today. Let me read you his latest tweet guys. He says, "Unless the Republican senators are total quitters, repeal and replace is not dead. Demand another vote before voting on any other bill." To you, Mike, it doesn't sound like the President is real happy with the current way things are going in terms of getting his agenda accomplished.

SHIELDS: Well, they picked the hardest thing to start off with and I think it's worth remembering that ObamaCare itself wasn't passed until after August. Reagan didn't get his tax cut passed until August which was his signature legislative thing. I don't even think this is actually President Trump's signature legislative goal. I think infrastructure --

CABRERA: But remember on the campaign trail when the President said this would be easy?

SHIELDS: Well, yes. Okay. Certainly it is harder than people have said on the campaign trail. I think we can all acknowledge that. But the fact of the matter is, I just don't think it's over. I think every time one of this sort of stumbling blocks in the legislative process, everyone in Washington says, oh, it's dead, we're not doing this anymore. And, you know, look, for the last eight years, Washington had never -- hadn't seen any legislating.

We don't remember what it's like to go into the sausage factory and watch all of this sausage being made. It is very difficult stuff. And so, I don't think it's over because health care policy in this country is very, very -- the ObamaCare bill is a disaster. I mean, the premium increases that are going to happen again in October are going to bring this right back to the forefront as you have exchanges collapsing, it's going to bring you back to the forefront.

And our elected officials are going to be asked to do something about it. So, the President is right. He's not giving up on this and we're going to keep going back to the legislators again and the Congress until they do something about it.

BROWNSTEIN: You know --

CABRERA: Ron, last word.

BROWNSTEIN: I would agree it's not over. I think there will be more attempts but I think what we have learned here is, that it is more difficult than Republicans expected to take away coverage from 20 million people, particularly when so many of them are Republican constituencies. As you look at the key state that decided the election, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania. A majority of those getting coverage are non-college whites.

The biggest loser in this bill are older working age whites, older working age adults, most of them are white, and who would face higher premiums and they mostly vote Republican. Medicaid -- the politics of Medicaid have fundamentally been transformed by moving it to lower middle income constituencies. Again, mostly vote Republican in the interior of the country.

So, whatever happens next, I think it is going to be shape by the reality, that there is simply, this has become intertwined in the American healthcare system in a way that is benefitting a lot of Republican constituencies including rural hospitals and communities on the front lines of the opioid crisis. It is just no way around that. For whatever comes next.

CABRERA: Gentlemen, thank you. Ron Brownstein, Michael Shields --

SHIELDS: Thank you.

CABRERA: I always appreciate it.

Coming up, Russia retaliates from American diplomats sent packing to diplomatic properties seized. How the Kremlin is now punching back at U.S. sanctions. The President hasn't even okayed. Plus, terrifying test. North Korea says the entire U.S. is now within striking range. What do the experts say?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:17:51] CABRERA: After some uncertainty, the White House says President Trump will sign a new Russia sanctions bill. The proposal penalizes Russia for meddling in the 2016 election and it makes it harder for President Trump to ease those penalties without Congressional approval. Russia is already retaliating saying it will seize U.S. diplomatic properties like this warehouse and demanding that the U.S. remove some of its diplomatic staff from the country.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski has more.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Russia is ordering U.S. diplomats out of the country. Capping the number allowed to stay behind at 455. The same number of Russian diplomats in the U.S. According to Russia's foreign ministry. Russia also seizing two U.S. properties. A weekend retreat outside of Moscow and a warehouse used by diplomats.

The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson sarcastically asked on Facebook makes your blood runs cold. The moves closely mirroring what the Obama administration did after determining that Russia and Vladimir Putin himself meddled in the U.S. presidential election. Kicking out 35 Russian diplomats believed to be intelligence operatives giving them 72 hours to leave and shutting down two Russian own estates in Maryland and New York. Infuriating Russia which has been openingly threatening retaliation for months.

STEVEN PIFER, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: It looks like the Kremlin is giving up the idea that there might be some kind of a reset under President Trump.

KOSINSKI: What put them over the edge now --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is passed.

KOSINSKI: Congress' bipartisan show of force passing new sanctions against Russia and preventing the White House from easily lifting them. The White House still hasn't indicated whether the President will sign the bill but the veto will surely be overwritten by Congress. Moscow clearly seeing it as a done deal. The foreign ministry is blasting the U.S. extremely hostile foreign policy, hiding behind its sense of superiority.

Russia says, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by phone today that Russia has shown restraint but was forced to take actions after U.S. provocations including unlawful sanctions and its slanderous accusations. Just yesterday, Vladimir Putin lamented the state of the relationship to CNN.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through a translator): It is a great pity. But we are seeing is merely anti-Russian hysteria.

PIFER: Congress usually takes a lot longer to lift sanctions than to impose them. The sanctions may remain on for years until they're lifted. And that will reduce the value of the sanctions to affect the change in the Russian behavior.


CABRERA: A U.S. diplomatic source tells CNN they're trying to find out exactly who will be impacted by Russia's demand. To cut down the number of U.S. diplomats to 445. And according to Russia state TV, there are currently 1200 U.S. diplomatic employees in Russia right now. So that means as many as 400 -- rather 745 could be forced out.

Let's discuss with CNN National Security analyst Steve Hall. He is also a retired CIA chief of Russia operations. So, Steve, how will this seizing of U.S. diplomatic properties and forcing all these people to leave affect as we see the sensitive U.S. operations in Russia?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Ana, it's a little bit of a quid pro quo. I mean, this is how these things are done. I was actually surprised that Putin and the Kremlin didn't immediately expel TNG, if you will declare persona non grata, 35 of our diplomats and take two of our facilities almost immediately after the Obama administration did this. How it will impact, I mean, when you have less people on the ground to do the work, whatever kind of work it is, diplomatic or otherwise, all of these are going to have, you know, a little bit of a chilling effect.

It is going to make a little bit harder. But really, we really didn't have any choice. Because what the Russians would like you to think and they take advantage of our western, you know, optimism and sense of fair play. What the Russians want us to think is, look, you kicked out and did something nasty to 35 of our folks and seized two of our facilities so now we're going to do the same to you. The problem is is what they would like you to conveniently forget is that we did this for a reason. We did it because they attacked our electoral procedure.


HALL: One of the bulwarks of our democracy. So, that's really what this is about.

CABRERA: Do you have any idea what role these people have currently in Russia?

HALL: The people that they're threatening --

CABRERA: That they would kick out, I mean, what did they do? Who are they?

[17:22:15] HALL: This is the part that's a little interesting in this because usually the Russians will be very reciprocal. So, again, you know, we kicked 35 out, they kicked 35 out. This time they played it a little differently and we have to see how the math all adds up. They basically said, look, we're going to demand that the same amount of American diplomats are present as there are Russian diplomats in the United States. It's unclear as to why they would do that and normally what they would

do is, they would identify similar people, the 35 that we expelled were primarily my guess is intelligence officers so they would probably look to do the same. Instead they're approaching it differently from a numbers perspective. And it's not entirely clear to me how they're manipulating those numbers or why they're doing it that way. But I can guarantee you it's because they see it as an advantage to them. So, it all depends on who they finally decide to expel.

CABRERA: You talked about the impetus for initially kicking out their own personnel here in the U.S., using their diplomatic facilities. Well, just, today, President Trump re-tweeted a "FOX AND FRIENDS" story claiming it showed Russia was actually against him in last year's election. Is there any evidence of that?

HALL: Not that I can see, Ana. I mean, this is -- it's a little scary to me because that type of move is sort of directly out of Putin's playbook which is, you deny everything and you make big counteraccusations that are in the opposite. You know, everything that we heard candidate Trump talk about, possibly lifting sanctions. The obsolescence of NATO. You know, maybe the folks in Crimea wanted to be part of Russia. Those are all extremely positive things that would have played very, very well in Vladimir Putin's ear. If you had to choose a candidate back then and you're Vladimir Putin, you're definitely going to choose Donald Trump. You're not going to choose the much more hawk like Hillary Clinton under those circumstances.

CABRERA: Do you think this Russia sanctions bill in Congress essentially tying Trump's hands is sending the message to Putin that, that President Trump is not in control of policy when it comes to Russia?

HALL: You know, it's interesting because whenever you try to figure out what's going on between Vladimir Putin's ears or really in any senior Kremlin officials mind when they look at our system, it's difficult to understand how that translates. I mean, it's remarkable from our perspective, right, that the Congress is actually tying the President's hands in this regard. Because they're concerned that he might be soft on Russia.

Whether or not that translates in Moscow to, well, this president is going to be a weak president, I mean, I think all of us understand that it's how our system works, it's checks and balances and it's how the government works. All of that is completely alien to Putin and so it's hard to think how he's going to interpret that.

All right. Steve Hall, we always appreciate your insight and expertise. Thank you.

HALL: Sure.

CABRERA: Coming up, nuclear threat. North Korea claims its missiles can now hit major U.S. city. What's the reality? We'll get a live report, next.


[17:29:12] CABRERA: Let's talk North Korea now. The second launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in a month and now North Korea says, it can strike the entire U.S. mainland with its nuclear arsenal. Analyst say, the missile test yesterday is more advanced than the one launched on July 4th. This latest launch travelled some 2,300 miles high before landing in waters off Japan.

Now, missile experts say, if the North Korean missile were fired on a more standard trajectory, it could hit major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, Denver, even Chicago.

Kristie Lu Stout is joining us from Tokyo. Kristie, can Pyongyang's claims that it can now strike the entire U.S. Mainland be verified?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Ana, it's such a bold and unsettling declaration from Pyongyang. The stern warning directed squarely at the United States, let's fact check it though.

[17:30:00] Let's fact-check it though. Now, we've been talking to missile experts that tell CNN if this ICBM was fired at a flatter trajectory, yes, it can meet major cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago. But there's the key issue of payload. The heavier the payload on missile the shorter the range of the missile. And at this moment, we don't know what the payload was or how much or how much it weighed on the ICBM that was launched.

Officials here in Japan across the region are trying to assess this new reality, the launch of a second ICBM by Pyongyang. It landed 120 miles off the coast of northwest Japan. And it represents progress in North Korea's weapons development. It was a rare night-time launch of an ICBM. It travelled higher and further than the first ICBM launch that took place on July 4th. It also was fired from a new staging area.

All this, these experts say, is a message from North Korea to the world that it can fire an ICBM anytime, anywhere -- Ana?

CABRERA: Kristi Lu Stout, thank you.

Coming up, driven to kill over laughter? A man accused of killing his wife on a cruise, telling a witness he did it because she wouldn't stop laughing at him.


[17:35:20] CABRERA: We're back with new developments in a murder at sea. The husband of a woman killed aboard a Princess cruise ship is in custody after witnesses came forward with a shocking account.

CNN's Jean Casarez has it for us.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESOPONDENT: Ana, Kenneth Manzanares has been charged with murder and he's in custody. His next court hearing will be in August.

Kenneth and his wife, Kristy, wanted to take a summer vacation. They went to Alaska to board the Princess Cruise Lines last Sunday. And according to legal documents, several days later, Tuesday night, a little after 9:00, authorities on the ship were summoned to their cabin. And what they saw was a deceased Kristy on the floor. Her head having a severe trauma. A lot of blood and blood on several items in the room. According to the affidavit, Kenneth had blood on his hands, blood on his clothes.

What may be a pivotal witness stepped forward shortly after that, saying he had asked Kenneth when he saw the scene himself a few moments later what happened and Kenneth allegedly said she wouldn't stop laughing at me. D.H., the witness, also stated to authorities he saw Kenneth dragging his wife out to a balcony area on the ship. DH, the witness, told authorities he dragged her, the victim, by her ankles, back into the cabin.

Authorities arrested Kenneth. He's being held in Juneau, Alaska. His attorney has asked for a change of venue.

We have reached out to the public defender. No call back at this moment.

But Kristy worked for a renowned international realty company, Sotheby's, and they have issued a statement saying, "Kristy was a devoted mother and tried to balance her work life with raising her children."

A very sad story all the way around.

Ana, back to you.


CABRERA: What a story.

Thank you, Jean Casarez.

Coming up, McCain's maverick moment. We pick apart every frame of this dramatic, surreal 19 seconds when the Senator voted against the Obamacare repeal. Wait till you see this.


[17:41:53] CABRERA: Welcome back. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is being called McCain's maverick moment. The Arizona Senator who is battling brain cancer cast that decisive vote that sank Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. What you may not have seen is the reactions from everyone in that room when he did it.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin gives us a frame-by-frame look. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BALDWIN (voice-over): 1:29 a.m., Senator McCain reenters the chamber. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, stands at the front of the room like he had most of the night. The grin on his face, though, quickly disappears.



BALDWIN: Senator Bernie Sanders appears to nudge Senator Jeanne Shaheen as if to say, watch this.

McCain waves his hand to get the attention of the Senate clerk, pauses for just a moment, and gives a dramatic thumbs-down.


BALDWIN: Audible gasp on the Senate floor and then commotion.


BALDWIN: Some Democrats can't contain their excitement. Senator Elizabeth Warren leans in to get a better look and breaks into applause. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a single assertive clap. Senator Sherrod Brown slams his hand on the desk in affirmation. While some Republicans, like Senator Marco Rubio, stare in disbelief. Senator Bill Cassidy drops his head. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer turns and waves his arms, apparently, trying to quiet them. Senator John McCain turns around and walks back to his chamber desk all alone.



CABRERA: Our thanks to Brooke for that play-by-play.

Let's bring in our panel. CNN political commentator and Reagan White House political director, Jeffrey Lord. And "Daily Beast" columnist and host of the "Dean Obeidallah Show" on SirusXM Radio, Dean Obeidallah.

Gentlemen, this is a lightning round.

Jeffrey, you participated in a lightning round before.

Dean, to give you the ground rules here, you have 30 seconds for each answer. When your time is up, you'll hear this sound.


CABRERA: OK. Let the games begin.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST & HOST, THE DEAN SHOW: I don't even need 30 seconds to crush Jeffrey Lord's talking points, so let's go.

We'll give Jeffrey the start here.

You're up first, Jeffrey.

That action by Senator McCain, what's your take? Did he kill, once and for all, the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think so. I think it will come back in some fashion. But you know, this was the best opportunity. I mean, the thing is Senator McCain campaigned against doing what he just did. And he said, I didn't tell you the truth.

CABRERA: All right.

Dean, your answer?

OBEIDALLAH: I think this is a great profile in courage. This was John McCain, plus Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, standing up and saying I don't want to see millions of Americans lose their health insurance, I don't want to see Medicaid gutted to 35 percent of the benefits gone, some the elderly suffer. Disabled children depend on it. Families depend on it. This was a great profile in courage. And Mike Pence and Donald Trump tried to break John McCain on the floor of the Senate, they couldn't. The man spent 5.5 years in a POW camp. You can't break him. I applaud him. It was a great move.

[17:45:18] CABRERA: So the Obamacare failure to repeal, that came in the same day we saw the resignation of Reince Priebus. Came just a day after communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, went on that profanity-laced rant about Priebus. I want to show you a photo of those two gentlemen in the Oval Office. Got a lot of attention here.

Dean, take a look at this. When you look at the picture, what do you see?

OBEIDALLAH: I see a great new reality show that combines "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Jersey Shore." It'll be a big hit Being half Italian, I'm Team Scaramucci. I'm biased on the whole thing here.

Look, there's fighting in the White House. It didn't begin with Scaramucci. It began early on. Steve Bannon fighting with Reince Priebus and family members fighting. It is like a reality show except the stakes are really high. I fear the biggest loser in all of this is we the people. I hope they get their act together for the good of the United States of America.

CABRERA: Jeffrey, your take?

LORD: Nothing is dramatic. There's been fighting in the White House before the White House was built, when Thomas Jefferson and alexander Hamilton were the Scaramucci and Priebus of the Washington administration, and poor George was driven crazy. These folks are there in every White House. You're going to see it now. You'll see it again. And sometimes it can be productive and sometimes not.

CABRERA: Now, during a rally in Ohio this week, the president made the point to his supporters that the American people don't need him to be more presidential. And that if he thought that was required he would do it. Let's listen.


TRUMP: Sometimes they say, he doesn't act presidential.


TRUMP: And I say, hey, look, great schools, smart guy. It's so easy to act presidential. With the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office.


CABRERA: Jeffrey, more presidential than anyone except Abe Lincoln. More than anyone?

LORD: After 45 presidents, I think we're starting to reinvent the definition of presidential. Each of these people are their own individuals. They're all different from one another. And this is the Trump presidency. The American people wanted it. They voted for it. They're getting it. Let Trump be Trump.


OBEIDALLAH: Can I use all of Jeffrey's time? He barely uses his time.

Jeffrey is right. Three million less American wanted Donald Trump than wanted Hillary Clinton on that fact there.

This is Donald Trump. Donald Trump's not going to change. He's 71 years old. He's had success in his life being this guy. Unfortunately, for the rest of us in this country, who would like to a thoughtful, informed president who makes us proud, we won't have it. We'll have Donald Trump the reality show host who is literally running the White House and the administration like a reality show. I had Liza Gibbons on my show, he'd find their vulnerabilities, pit them against each other, and throw a grenade in the room and let them fight. He's running the government like a reality show.


CABRERA: Speaking of reality shows.

LORD: I knew it.

CABRERA: We still don't know what outgoing press secretary, Sean Spicer, will do. But look at this courtesy of page six. "Dancing with the Stars," Sean Spicer.

Dean, what do you think? Any chance that could happen?

OBEIDALLAH: In this -- yes. In the world we live in today, anything. He could be on "The Deadliest Catch" next week. The line between celebrity and politician are completely intertwined. The one upside of the nice thing about Trump we don't hear about the Kardashians anymore. There's the upside because everything is Donald Trump from politics to pop culture. He sucked all the oxygen out. So Sean Spicer on "Dancing with the Stars," perfect.

CABRERA: Jeffrey?

LORD: I think Dean has a point there. This is going on for some time says the guy who worked for the first movie actor president. You have had a movie actor, another movie actor as governor of California. Fred Grandy from "Love Boat" was a congressman from Iowa. Kid Rock wants to be the next U.S. Senator from Michigan. This is where we're headed. I think this is where we have been for a few decades, so the more the merrier.

CABRERA: All right. Bonus question, you have been so succinct. There was the speech to the politics, became political. And Scaramucci went on that verbal rant of Priebus. Defeat of health care at the end of the week. We always wonder will anything stick with this particular president? Are there any long-term ramifications to his presidency, Jeffrey?

[17:50:04] LORD: Well, I think to some degree, they used to call Ronald Reagan the Teflon president. And what we are seeing here is another one of those. People want serious things done. I think the failure of Obamacare, and repeal Obamacare, that's serious. Some of the other things are just fluff, and I don't think they will stick at all.


OBEIDALLAH: I think that the reality his approval ratings show Donald Trump at near record lows around 39 percent average right now. What's going to happen is Republicans closer to midterms won't stick their neck out for Donald Trump, and it will stop. We have a lame-duck president at this time, which again, even though I'm partisan, is not good for the United States of America. We at least need bipartisan work. And, Jeffrey, I hope you will join me. Expand eligibility. All Americans, health care. Let's finally do it.


CABRERA: That ends our session.

OBEIDALLAH: Are there any prizes? I did pretty good. Can you score our answers? Nothing?

CABRERA: No. No, I'm definitely not scorekeeper. I'm just the ring leader.

OBEIDALLAH: We need judges.

CABRERA: Dean Obeidallah, Jeffrey Lord, we'll have you back. That was a lot of fun.

Thank you for your thoughtful discussion.

LORD: Reagan is back.

CABRERA: Coming up -- the viewers should be the judges, is what my producers just said. Tweet us who won that round.

Coming up, did the president find his mini me? Jeanne Moos, on the man who loves his boss so much he even steals his lines.



TRUMP: We're going to get tired of winning.

SCARAMUCCI: You're going to get tired of winning.

TRUMP: You're going to get tired of winning.

SCARAMUCCI: We're going to win so much.

TRUMP: You're going to get so sick and tired of winning.



[17:56:07] CABRERA: Now to the rain forest of south Asia, and the "CNN Hero" who earned the nickname, Papa Bear. His mission is to save the sun bear after realizing the role it plays in keeping the rain forests healthy.


FICHI WANG, CNN HERO: It started 20 years ago. No one has ever studied this. The more I learned about them, the more I cared. The more I cared, the more I worried. I have to help them. And this is why I want to be the voice for the sun bears, to fight for the sun bears, to ensure the survival of the sun bear.


CABRERA: To see more of those cute, little bears, and learn how Wang is helping them, go to And while you are there, nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero."

When it comes to George Clooney, he says he is not taking it anymore. What is pushing him over the edge? Pictures of his 7-week-old twins with his wife, Amal. They were posted on the cover of a magazine. And he released this statement, saying, quote, "over the last week, photographers from "Voici" magazine scaled our fence, climbed our tree, and illegally took photos. And they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The safety of our children demands it." No comment from the magazine. Finally, new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci,

has only been in the job a few days, but we have lost count of the times he has professed his love for his boss.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anthony Scaramucci won't have to scrounge for a nickname.




MOOS: Stephen Colbert said it 13 times --

COLBERT: The Mooch.

The Mooch.

MOOS: -- in a nine-minute segment about the new White House communications director --

COLBERT: The Mooch is ready to smooch.

MOOS: Smooch the president's behind.

SCARAMUCCI: I love the president.

I love the president.

I love the guy.

I love the president.

MOOS: Let us count the ways --

SCARAMUCCI: In the way I know and the way I love him.

MOOS (on camera): But Scaramucci isn't saving all his love for the president. He has got love left over.

(voice-over): For Sean Spicer.

SCARAMUCCI: And I love the guy.

MOOS: For other White House staffers.

SCARAMUCCI: I love the hair and makeup person that we had.

MOOS: Tweeted one critic, "Is there anyone anywhere, or anything you do not love?"

Next thing he'll say he loves the fandango.


MOOS: Actually, Scaramouche is a clown character in Italian theater and the Fandango is a Spanish dance, not yet danced at the White House.

Scaramucci may not be a bohemian, but he rhapsodizes about love.

SCARAMUCCI: I love the president.

MOOS: He even uses the same line as the president.

SCARAMUCCI: We're going to win so much, Chris.

TRUMP: We're going to get tired of winning.

SCARAMUCCI: You're going to get tired of winning.

TRUMP: You're going to get tired of winning.

SCARAMUCCI: We're going to win so much.

TRUMP: You're going to get so sick and tired of winning.

MOOS: They don't just talk the same.


MOOS: The Mooch himself retweeted this bit from "The Daily Show."

Even when he merely likes someone, his feelings grow as he speaks.

SCARAMUCCI: I like the team. Let me rephrase that. I love the team.

MOOS: Anthony Scaramucci is the very Barry White of the White House --


MOOS: -- right down to blowing the press a kiss.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --


MOOS: -- New York.


CABRERA: I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for staying with us. I'll see you back here in one hour live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

"SMERCONISH" starts right now.