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Trump: Opioid Crisis "A National Emergency"; President Trump Wages War of Words on Two Fronts. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 11, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:09] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A wave of support on social media for Taylor Swift as the pop superstar fights back against a Denver deejay that she says groped her. Swift firmly telling his attorney, quote, I'm not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way this is my fault. Mueller, the deejay, for his part, denies grabbing Swift during a backstage meet and greet in 2013.

He later sued her claiming, that he was wrongfully terminated after Swift and her mother pressured the radio station. Swift responded with a counter suit.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A state of emergency declared in New Orleans. The city's water pumping system malfunctioning after last week's rains and flash floods. Officials now scrambling to repair equipment that was damaged at a power plant Wednesday night. There are more storms on the way.

Let's get right to meteorologist Chad Myers.

And, of course, to remind people the sensitivity of this area to flooding and how little they have working for them in battling against this.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Parts of New Orleans, Chris, are 7 feet below sea level. They didn't start out 7 feet below sea level, but the whole city has been sinking over time.

This weather is brought to you by Tempur Pedic. Tempur Pedic sleep is power.

Here's what's going on. Heavy, heavy rain showers occurring across the country today, and especially across the Gulf Coast. This is where the rainfall will be the heaviest. This is where is has been the heaviest.

Two to four inches already across the area. The ground is saturated. It's not going to soak in anymore. We will see the showers pop up in New Orleans, also to the east of there.

The heaviest rain doesn't get there until tomorrow. It's not a matter of can they get the water out. The pumps have do move the water out of the city. The water cannot drain. If it drains it goes down to the deepest part which is still where people live -- Brianna. [06:35:03] KEILAR: All right. Chad Myers, thank you so much for that


Well, President Trump is undercutting another top adviser, declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency, right after his health and human services secretary said it wasn't necessary to do so. We'll bring back our panel to discuss next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The opioid crisis is an emergency and I'm saying officially right now, it is an emergency. It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.


CUOMO: The president's strong and clear on an issue that matters more every day to families all across this country. One problem, there's someone who disagrees with him and it's the guy in charge of making it a national emergency. Health Secretary Tom Price said it wasn't necessary to make opioids a national emergency situation.

Let's bring back Chris Cillizza and John Avlon.

All right. So, you have two things. One, you have opioids, which is an area of coverage, you know, we really own on this show. We have a big documentary coming out about opioids. You saw what Poppy Harlow did about the scope of addiction across this country. It matters. It can't be taken seriously enough. Good for the president.

Now, you have the second issue, Chris Cillizza, which is, is he ever on the same page with his people? Which is not just about style or language but efficiency and action plan within government.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Right. So I think you're smart to separate it out because I do think regardless of the second point, the first point is important, which is, there will now be resources dedicated to this.

[06:40:08] There are real things that come with declaring this a national emergency. That's point one.

Point two, the answer is no, is he ever really on the same page. He acts and talks and then the people in and around him have to react and try to make policy around those things. It happens again and again.

North Korea is an example. This is an example. Immigration is an example.

We're going to build a big beautiful wall. OK, what does that -- how do we do that? How do we fund it? What does it logistically look like? And I don't think he really -- I don't know if he isn't aware that

he's contradicting people who have said other things that work for him or he doesn't care. Again, I think every day Donald Trump gets up, it's clean desk and he just goes. Yesterday is not that important. Tomorrow is not that important.

I always turn to that metaphor in art of the deal. He comes in every morning. He doesn't have meetings planned. He has no schedule and his desk is clear and he says he lets the day come to him. I see no reason to think that's different than what he's doing now.

KEILAR: I wonder what's the matter with saying it is a national emergency, especially when by all accounts --

CUOMO: Nothing except it's a term of art, even if there's certain funding streams, certain mechanisms.

KEILAR: But even so, I mean, he's under fire. His administration is under fire for maybe not -- for not putting more toward it.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. You're exactly right. There's nothing wrong with calling it a national emergency. If anything it's overdue. It was a major campaign promise he made. The country is hurting, particularly -- I mean, there are pockets in this country as Poppy showed in her doc that are suffering enormously. Not enough room at the morgue because this is an epidemic.

So making this officially declaration of emergency actually has enormous practical benefit for people and communities and states that are hurting. That's great.

The larger point is, it's more evidence of this administration is not a well-oiled machine. There is a degree of governing. What I look forward to further reporting is on why HHS Secretary Price came out and said we don't need this. What was that debate? Because his opioid commission disagreed and said it should be.

CUOMO: Right.

AVLON: And apparently, this decision was made a bit on the cuff without Secretary Price's consultation.

CUOMO: Right. I think, yes, the big space for criticism is of Price. This isn't the first time he said something that seems to run afoul of what the president wants but may be what's best for the country. The opioid thing is where the president needs to jump on it because it hits people where they live most.

He was in New Hampshire standing with firefighters. I have never seen first responders under pressure in dealing with this crisis. They don't even call themselves firefighters anymore because they're doing Narcan, you know, overdose calls than they are fighting fires. And he promised them help and it hasn't come. So, the urgency is going to be welcomed.

But to the larger point, more sound for you of once again the president running afoul of his own people, picking fights with his own. Here's the latest, not just about opioids, but with Jeff Sessions and how it's going to go with the new chief of staff.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's fine. It is what it is. It's fine. He's working hard on the border. I'm very proud of what we've done on the border. I'm very proud of General Kelly of what he's done on the border. One of the reasons he's my chief of staff right now is because he did such an outstanding job at the border.


CUOMO: Chris Cillizza?

CILLIZZA: I mean, if you're Jeff Sessions -- first of all, you've endured plenty from the president, but it's fine and then I hate to even repeat the words, but it is what it is. And then the pivot to John Kelly, he's a good guy. It would be like if you walked in the street afterwards, Chris, and somebody is like, hey, I saw John Avlon and Chris Cillizza. And you're like, yes, Chris -- yes, John Avlon, great guy.


CILLIZZA: That probably does happen. But how does that -- if you're Jeff Sessions, it's brutal. I mean, it's not new. He's clearly sort of -- he will like Jeff Sessions to go do another job, but he's not willing to fire him. So --

AVLON: Jeff Sessions has been, like, checked into the locker by the high school bully and now, it's just a tap. And it feels like love and affirmation.

But, I mean, this is clearly like a dysfunctional relationship. I mean, look, Kelly is getting some solidity. He loves generals. And that's great, which also the praise of McMaster is significant because McMaster has come under so much fire from the alt-right and that's a significant step. If that coalition can stand together, that bodes well for the White House and its policy.

KEILAR: I love that word because it's a special word, fine, it always mean it's not fine. Right?

CUOMO: Anything that says fine is usually -- saying it is what it is.

All right. So, the president waging a war of words on two different fronts. The first one is North Korea. The other, his most important Republican ally.

[06:45:03] Where is it working for the president better in either situation? We'll take it on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: The president likes to engage adversaries. He likes tough talk. And we're seeing that happen on two different levels right now. One is with the leader of North Korea. You know what's going on there. The other is with the leader of his own party in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

How is the strategy working in each instance?

Let's discuss. We have CNN political commentators Ben Ferguson and Scott Jennings. Jennings is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush. Ben Ferguson has a heck of a radio show.

All right. So, let's start with North Korea, all right? Why does this matter? Well, checks every box of existential concern.

The president says, Scott Jennings, you know, presidents in the past, Obama, he wouldn't even talk about it. I will talk. Somebody needs to. How is it working?

[06:50:00] SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I like the president's tough stance on North Korea and it's true, actually. Other U.S. presidents have made not dissimilar statements to Donald Trump. I mean, at one point Barack Obama actually said no U.S. president will ever accept a North Korean regime with nuclear missiles. I mean, that's a pretty clear statement coming from a different administration.

I think there's a lot of liberal handwringing today about the president's tough talk, but it's not all together dissimilar than what we've heard from other presidents and, frankly, I think the American people want someone to stand up to North Korea, because look, for the last several years, they've taken our restraint and use all that time to build apparently a nuclear missile. That's a bad thing.

CUOMO: Ben, the question that raises, though, is to what end? The reason that you see leaders being measured is because they don't want to take the next step, because the next step is in this situation -- you know, taking the president at a minimum, let's mitigate his words for the purpose of this.

You know, fire and fury the likes of which response the world has never seen. Let's assume it has to have something to do with military action. Boy, would that be a big commitment for the United States. That's why we've seen such measured language in part. So, where's the balance of talking tough versus what you expose yourself to in terms of risk?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I don't think there's much of an issue here with exposing yourself to risk when you're saying the foreign policy of the United States of America is to protect and defend the homeland and our allies, and we're not going to allow you to continue down the road that you're on right now.

The president also understands I think very clearly that the patient diplomacy road has been a disaster. It has allowed Kim Jong-un to get to the point where he can reach half of America and pretty soon could probably reach the entire U.S. And then people say, well, Ben, you know, you need to not say that because we don't know that he can actually guide in one of his missiles into a direct hit on an actual target.

I think for Kim Jong-un it's pretty clear in America anywhere is a good target and we've allowed him to get to the point where he can actually accomplish that now. So, I think the president's words are, in fact, measured.

I think it's a new day when it comes to how we're going to deal with him. We're not going to punt to the international community because that has been literally disastrous, given the nuclear weapons, and we're not going to punt to China and let them take the let when, in fact, China has done nothing to stop at all and sanctions are not going to work.

CUOMO: But what are you guys suggesting, though? This is the part I don't get about this, Scott, I'll bounce it back to you. Well, so then, what? So, let's say he puts missiles into the water near Guam, OK? All right. So, he does this. So, what are you going to do? Are you going to take military action against North Korea? What are they going to do? Almost immediately attack the DMZ, right? Almost immediately do something to Japan, right? And then where does it go from there?

I don't know the casualness of the embrace of tough talk here when it could lead to an eventuality that the United States has zero appetite for.

JENNINGS: Well, I think the other people that don't really have any appetite for armed conflict over there is China. I think the president's words are a message to North Korea. But they are a message to the Chinese government that, hey, we're going to take a tougher posture here. It's a signal to them you need to get in the game here and rein in North Korea.

CUOMO: So, it increases some urgency.

JENNINGS: A good sign came the other day on the security council when they voted with us on the sanctions.

CUOMO: And Russia did as well.


JENNINGS: That the Chinese get it.

CUOMO: So, you're hoping it increases the urgency there and will ultimately lead to de-escalation. Fine. Let's leave that one there. Let's go to Mitch McConnell.

Ben, the president has high ground here. Repeal and replace. That's what you Republicans have been talking about for years and years. Whether it was well-reasoned or not is beside the point.

Now, you're in a position of power. You're supposed to do it and you didn't. The president has high ground to complain.

But calling out Mitch McConnell in public when he needs him to empower the agenda, good move?

FERGUSON: Yes. Mitch McConnell is the next John Boehner. It's time for him to move on. He's pretty much a useless Senate majority leader and he obviously does not understand the American people and he doesn't understand what his job is.

His job is to keep his members in line when all of them ran very clearly on repealing and replacing Obamacare. If they didn't like the bill, whose fault is that? It's not Donald Trump's fault. It's his fault for not leading and saying, give me a really good bill right now.

Mitch McConnell is at this point meaningless and worthless to doing anything with Obamacare. He cannot lead. He should not be in that position of power.

That's one of the reasons why so many new conservatives got elected. That's the reason why Donald Trump got elected. It's the reason why many of his buddies who ran were complete failures in their presidential campaigns. They rejected people like Lindsey Graham in this last election, his good friend, because why, they don't know how to lead on this issue. I think it's very clear now his days are numbered or should be numbered.

CUOMO: All right. Scott Jennings, you did a great job of keeping passive TV face there. Do you want to own the same thoughts as Ben? Do you think Mitch McConnell has failed and needs to go?

[06:55:00] JENNINGS: No. I'm going to disagree with my friend Ben.

CUOMO: I was wondering why there was such a good passive TV face. You couldn't see it, but it was a study of the craft. Go ahead.

JENNINGS: Yes, look, the reality on Obamacare is it's a bit of a miracle McConnell ever got it to the floor in the first place and I think it's a bloody miracle they got 49 votes. The three Republicans who voted against it, two of them the president had either personally insulted or threatened in the weeks leading up to the vote and the third one is more liberal than every Republican in the Senate.

So, I think the politics is a team sport. The president ought to look around and realize, he and Mitch McConnell is on the same team. McConnell has been fighting for his agenda. McConnell got Gorsuch confirmed. McConnell just jammed through a bunch of his nominations despite the obstruction of Chuck Schumer.

If you want to find a U.S. senator to be upset with -- be upset with Chuck Schumer. He's the one right now who's doing obstruction on all your nominations in the Defense Department, the State Department. We've got a war coming with North Korea. Mitch McConnell is your friend. Chuck Schumer is your enemy. Make sure you understand what team you're on.

CUOMO: All right. Different points, but you guys got equal time on it, Ben. I've got to go. Appreciate it very much.

Take a look at Scott Jennings' passive face during what you were saying. It was a study in the art of the craft.

Gentlemen, thank you.


KEILAR: Chris, as you know, the nuclear tensions are rising between the U.S. and North Korea. This reclusive regime is responding to the president's latest fiery rhetoric. We're going to bring that to you at the top of the hour.