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Trump Signs E.O. On North Korea Sanctions, Threatens North Korea at U.N.; Mexican Crews Still Working to Rescue Girl Trapped in Rubble; Health Care Feud Between Kimmel & Cassidy Escalates; Grassley: GOP Needs to Pass Promised Health Care Legislation. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 21, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANAYST: I think, you know, there's the issue of how far can you push North Korea. You don't want to collapse its economy. South Korea's made very clear Japan, China, do not want to see a state collapse there. And if you're going to really aggressively try to knock out its economy, you're risking a lot more disorder, a lot more, you know, problems that aren't necessarily easy to manage.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Right. Because these countries that you mention they all have a stake in it. So what is China's posture with this? What is China's role?

ROSENBERG: Apparently, so Trump, as he was announcing this, said China's central bank has instructed its banks to stop doing business with North Korean banks. If true, and that remains to be confirmed by China, that seems to be a step-in support. Saying, OK, we agree with you, we'll get on with this. That would be a real diplomatic victory. I don't think we want to downplay that that if that is the case, if China, Russia, and others agree to go along with tighter sanctions, then, you know, that is a diplomatic success for the Trump administration.

BROWN: And speaking of diplomatic successes and the idea of perhaps going to the negotiating table with North Korea when asked about possible dialogue with North Korea, the president said why not. What did you make of that response? It seems like a different tone than just a few weeks ago where he insinuated that that would not be an option.

ROSENBERG: I mean, at this point, you know, expecting consistency from President Trump on these issues, it just -- I don't expect one and I don't think many of us do. But, look, I think in a lot of ways that's similar to President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton. If you want to this to end, you're probably going to have to talk to North Korea. And if they're willing to talk, you know, that certainly seem what is Trump is willing to do. Again, that would be, I think for most people in the region, around the world, a good thing. Because, again, that's not the use of violence to resolve this issue. But that threat hangs over there. And how talkative the North Koreans are going to be with somebody who's constantly threatening to destroy them, to bomb them, you know, that will only go so far. And I think North Korea's shown it doesn't respond particularly well to threats. It tends to get its back up like many countries and many people around the world do.

BROWN: Right. Almost seems to embolden them even more. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, was on CNN's "New Day" this morning. And I want to play his reaction to a question about him calling Kim Jong-Un the Rocket Man.


GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, it got everybody's attention, right? And we need to get everybody's attention. We cannot take the same approach we've been taking on North Korea. It is really, really an urgent problem now.


BROWN: So what do you make of that, Matthew? Getting everyone's attention. Do you think the shock tactics work when dealing with someone like Kim Jong-Un?

ROSENBERG: We've talked about it, people have really seemed to notice it. If you wanted his attention, that seemed to have worked. I don't know what you do with the problem with North Korea, I don't think President Trump does, I don't think anybody does because there have been a lot of attempts to try to solve this through sticks and carrots and none of them have quite worked. So I think, you know, at this point, I don't think McMaster is being insincere there. I'm not sure many people would choose to kind of be glib, refer to somebody as Rocket Man, but, you know, if it works, it works.

BROWN: Right. All right. Seems like nothing is working at this stage with North Korea, but we will have to see how this unfolds with the news today that there will be new sanctions imposed on North Korea.

Matthew Rosenberg, thank you so much.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

BROWN: And up next, back to our breaking news out of Mexico City. Crews working around the clock scrambling to save a 12-year-old little girl they believe is still alive in the rubble of a collapsed school. Dozens of others missing. We'll take you back live to the scene up next.


[14:37:46] BROWN: Back to our breaking news out of Mexico City. Crews have been working around the clock scrambling to save a 12-year- old little girl they believe is still alive. Her voice heard underneath the rubble.

I want to check back in with CNN's Miguel Marquez in Mexico City.

So what's the latest?

MIQUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're in the same situation we were earlier. I'm whispering because they've called for silence. It seems every time we're about to go live they call for silence. We've had this many, many times an hour just down this way. Now we're actually back to normal volume. They've called off whatever moment of silence so that rescuers could listen very intently to the area where they are searching. What they believe they have done is found -- figured out where the little girl is using thermal imaging. They say it is possible that there are others down there with her alive. They are moving in from two different directions, but it is very, very slow going. It is very difficult for them to do because the building has basically pancaked on top of itself. They don't want to cause further collapse. They don't know how much room she has to move. We were told they were able to get a tube down to her and get water down to her. It's not clear whether she can actually get to that water, whether she is pinned or not. It rained quite heavily here last night which further complicates things as well. They did have -- were able to bring out one person today, an adult, unfortunately, it was a teacher here at the school and she did not survive. The teacher in here 50s here at the school. We just saw one of the students here, a young woman named Lu, who had a bunch of dolls with her. She has come back to the school with her mother just to see what's happening here to seek some sort of solace. She escaped here. So many of her classmates are left behind in that building. And 21 have died there. They're hoping they can bring these others out alive, but it is fascinating to be in this location because it is become sort of this magnet for the entire community. There are people who come to sing religious tunes. There are volunteers everywhere just waiting to be called to go into the scene so they can help. It has become an entire communal effort here everyone focused on this one little girl. They feel if they can save her they can certainly feel much, much better about how things are going. Keep in mind this is one location. There are many, many locations not only across Mexico City but in large cities to the south, closer to the epicenter, cities like Puebla hit very, very hard by this earthquake, and we are only beginning to understand how much of those cities have been affected. In some cases, entire neighborhoods were pretty much flattened -- Pam?

[14:40:37] BROWN: Just very quickly, when was the last time they heard this little girl's voice, do you know?

MARQUEZ: I don't know. 24 hours ago, they were saying they were able to hear her. It sounds like they are able to keep some sort of communication open with her. It's one reason that they keep asking for moments of silence because they are trying to communicate with her, figure out where she is, who else might be down there with her. So it sounds like they're in some sort of regular communication with her, but I don't know when the last time they were able to have some sort of communication with the little girl -- Pam?

BROWN: OK. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much. Of course, we'll go back to you in just a few moments.

We also have some new reporting today about President Trump's former campaign chairman and possible contact with Kremlin-linked officials during the campaign. "The Washington Post" reports that Paul Manafort offered to brief a notorious Russian billionaire about the election two weeks before Trump accepted the GOP nomination. Well, that billionaire has worked with Manafort in the past and has direct ties to Vladimir Putin. A source told "The Post" that in July 2016 Manafort sent an e-mail to an intermediary that said, quote, "If he needs private briefings, we can accommodate." "The Post" also reported that message is just one of a cachet of e-mails being reviewed by congressional investigators and Special Counsel Mueller's team.

Joining me to talk about this CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates, and CNN contributor, Garrett Graff, executive director of Aspen Institute's Cyber Security and Technology Program.

First to you, Garrett.

In Manafort's private briefings, he asks how he could use his positive press and reputation to, quote, "get whole." What do you make of that?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a puzzling comment. And it's not the only puzzling comment that we see in both this report from "The Washington Post" as well as others that we've seen come out from -- concerning Paul Manafort and the way he was mixing business and politics throughout the campaign last year, both before he officially joined the Trump campaign, while he was on the Trump campaign and then after. And it's important to also understand that the Russian oligarch that you mentioned isn't the only Russian oligarch that in fact Paul Manafort has been doing business with. He has business ties to Dimitri Furtach (ph), who is one of the Justice Department's most wanted criminals, trying to extradite him to Chicago right now from Austria. And this is someone who is directly linked to Simone Mogalevich (ph), who is perhaps the most-wanted FBI Russian organized crime boss, who for a number of years was the only international figure on the FBI's ten most wanted list with Osama bin Laden.

BROWN: So, Laura, to you, it appears based on "The Post" reporting these e-mails that Paul Manafort was using his proximity to Trump during the campaign to his advantage, perhaps creating an opportunity to get access to the Russians. Is there a legal consequence to that?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANAYST: Well, there very well may be because what you have here is the prosecutors and the criminal probe investigators like Robert Mueller trying to figure out and assess whether or not somebody had motive, opportunity and whether they were vulnerable to being infiltrated or coerced into doing this sort of action. Remember, what you have here is Paul Manafort who appears to be trying to not only capitalize on his position but perhaps monetize. Those e-mails included trying to get people to pay debts back to him that were owed from the Trump campaign e-mail address. So you have someone trying to monetize his proximity which allows prosecutors and criminal probe to say, well, now we may have somebody who was trying to do all that he can to secure that position and ensure that his global positioning, especially in the area, was at its top. But you also have the absence quite frankly of one smoking gun. It's been described as innocuous, these e-mails, not particularly explicit on what he was going to do or whether the meetings actually took place, but you don't actually need that in this particular prosecution because what you need here is leverage. I think that's what Mueller is trying to capitalize on somebody by going 11 years back into his financial dealings, trying to figure out whether this person will in fact be able to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. That's why all eyes right now are on Manafort.

[14:45:22] BROWN: Right. It's all about the leverage it seems in this investigation.

Garrett, Vice President Mike Pence talked about Russia this morning. Take a listen to what he said.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I can assure you is that we're fully cooperating with the special counsel. And we'll continue to do that. I've made clear that, during my time on the campaign, I was not aware of any contacts or any collusion with Russian officials. I stand by that.


BROWN: "During my time," does that sound odd or especially nuanced to you?

GRAFF: It sounds very legalistic. It sounds like -- and Laura can certainly speak to this as well. It sounds like the type of answer you would be practicing and rehearsing so that when and if you're interviewed by Robert Mueller's investigation or grand jury down the road, you're giving a very narrow nuanced answer. But remember, this is consistent with what Mike Pence has been saying basically since the first moment these allegations began to swirl, which is that he has been trying to distance himself from them. He has been saying that he had no knowledge of these contacts, that he does not have -- he's not linked to the aides who have been linked to this. And that he's trying to put as much distance between himself and this investigation as he possibly can. In part because if this does end up targeting Donald Trump at the highest levels, either with a criminal charge or impeachment, then obviously Vice President Pence would be the one potentially stepping into that role.

BROWN: All right. Laura Coates, Garrett Graff, thank you very much.

COATES: Thank you.

BROWN: We are following breaking news involving two major natural disasters, including the desperate scene unfolding right now in Puerto Rico, getting pounded by heavy rains after Hurricane Maria devastated the region. CNN is on the ground there and we will check in live, coming up.


[14:50:54] BROWN: Late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel has gone from funny man to fact checker once again in the nation's health care battle. For the second time in days he called out Senator Bill Cassidy and his new health care bill. Well, Kimmel says the Graham/Cassidy failed to live up to Cassidy's promise of passing the Jimmy Kimmel test by fully covering Americans with pre-existing conditions. The Louisiana Senator then pushed back saying Kimmel doesn't understand the bill. And Kimmel fired back yet again.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: I get it, I don't understand because I'm a talk show host, right? Well, and then help me out, which part I don't understand, is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having pre-existing conditions? Maybe I don't understand the part of your bill in which federal funding disappears completely after 2026, or maybe it was the part where the plans are no longer required to pay for essential health benefits like maternity care or pediatric visits.


BROWN: All right. Let's talk more about this. I'm joined now by Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large.

Chris, how ironic is it that a TV host is becoming an obstacle of sorts to the president's agenda right now?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: About as ironic as a celebrity reality tv star is the president of the United States -- Pam?

BROWN: Fair point.

CILLIZZA: We live in interesting times. Look, I do think to an extent this is reflective of a broad thing we've seen which is there are really no more lanes anymore. Remember people say stay in your lane when Lebron James would say something about politics or that kind of doesn't exist anymore.

And Kimmel, I think, is the most recent and most high-profile example of it, but the truth of the matter is he's right. You can say that this bill -- let's just take pre-existing conditions. You can say that this bill covers them because theoretically it would, but it allows insurers to set rates on it, which means you could say we'll cover your pre-existing condition, but your premium is this high and you're not going to be able to afford it. So it's a question in theory it would cover it, in practical terms it's more likely that Jimmy Kimmel's view on it is accurate of how it would play out as opposed to Bill Cassidy who are is selling -- understandably he's the bill's sponsor but is selling the best case rosiest version of the bill.

BROWN: Right. And it says in there that it would have to be affordable, but that's not well defined in the bill. So there's a lot of question marks still about that.

CILLIZZA: Yes, affordable is in the eye of the beholder, right?

BROWN: Exactly. CILLIZZA: We know that. Unless there are set numbers, you get into

dangerous territory there.

BROWN: Right. And there are no set numbers there as far as I understand.

Senator Grassley just made some frank comments about how passing a plan to replace Obamacare is more about politics than policy. Here's what he told "Des Moines Register." He said, "You know, I could maybe give you ten reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered, but Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That's pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill."

Your reaction?

CILLIZZA: Michael Kinsley (ph) famously said in the '90s a gaffe in washington is when someone tells the truth without meaning to. I don't know if Chuck Grassley meant to or not, but that's a fact. This is a rock and a hard place for Republicans. The rock, they spent eight years saying the second we have full control we're going to get rid of Obamacare. And everyone cheered and it helped them win back control in the House and Senate in the 2010 and 2014 midterms. The hard place, very little polling suggests people want this. There are real world concerns that people could lose their insurance, people could struggle to meet medical needs with this insurance. And, frankly, as Chuck Grassley pointed out, they still can't necessarily get to that 50-vote plateau. This is what happens when you are the minority party and you make a lot of promises and you become in control of everything, House, Senate and president. People expect you to make good on those things you said. And it's a lot harder to govern than it is to campaign. And that's a truism for both parties from the time politics started until today.

[14:55:13] BROWN: Yes.

CILLIZZA: And it will be year in the true 40,000.

BROWN: It's not going to change. That is the truth.

Chris --


CILLIZZA: That prediction I feel comfortable making.

BROWN: You feel good about that one. I do, too.

All right, Chris, thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Pam.

BROWN: We have some more breaking news. President Trump today taking action to put new pressure on North Korea. This time, China is directly involved. The question now? Will this plan work to de- escalate the nuclear standoff? The White House briefing just moments away.


[15:00:03] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROWN: And top of the hour now. I'm Pamela Brown.

We are anxiously awaiting to see whether a little girl trapped in the rubble of her school for two days now --