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President Trump Campaign-like Mode; Obamacare Repeal and Replace Version 2.0; Senator McCain May Put an End to GOP's Bill; President Trump Reviving the Russia Issue; Facebook's Tune Changed. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, the president speaking to a cheering crowd in Alabama tonight.

This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.

The president apparently has Russia on his mind much, listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just in case you are curious, no, Russia did not help me. OK?


LEMON: And he is doubling down on his rocket man rhetoric.


TRUMP: We can't have mad men out there shooting rockets all over the place.


And by the way, rocket man should have been handled a long time ago.


LEMON: And listen to what the president says about John McCain's decision today to vote no on the GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare.


TRUMP: John McCain, if you look at his campaign, his last campaign, was all about repeal and replace, repeal and replace. So he decided to do something different, and that's fine. And I say we still have a chance -- we're going to do it eventually. We're going to do it eventually.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Let's get right to CNN's Kaitlan Collins in Huntsville, Alabama for us tonight. Kaitlan, good evening to you. He covered a lot of ground in his rally and we're going to get to a lot of that in this show tonight. But what did the president say about Senator John McCain's announcement?

KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, CNN: Well, we were expecting the president to take several swipes at John McCain after he announced today that he would not be supporting the Graham-Cassidy bill. The president said that it actually came as a surprise to him because he was given a list of people to be worried about and that John McCain was not on that list.

Listen to what the president said.


TRUMP: They gave me a list of 10 people that were absolutely no's. These are 10 republican senators. Now, John McCain's -- John McCain's list


John McCain name was not on the list. So that was a totally unexpected thing. Terrible. Honestly, terrible. Repeal and replace, because John McCain, if you look at his campaign his last campaign, was all about repeal and replace, repeal and replace.


COLLINS: So although that he, the president -- what John McCain did today potentially dealt this fatal blow to another effort by the republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act the president still sounded pretty hopeful, Don about this.

In fact, he said that he thinks that he can get Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky who has been a hard no on this bill the entire time, that he can get him to say yes. And the president said wouldn't it be ironic if he got Rand Paul to say yes while John McCain was saying no because he said that Rand Paul and John McCain don't like each other. But, yes, he took several swipes at John McCain here tonight in Huntsville.

LEMON: Is there any word from the White House, Kaitlan, on whether they're going to continue their efforts to wrangle these votes? So he's saying he is, but have you heard anything from the White House.

COLLINS: Well, the White House hasn't issued any official statement. But one person did tell our Dan Merica that what John McCain said today undeniably hurts their efforts to repeal Obamacare. They're going to reach out to senators and try to move this thing forward. But it's definitely not in a good place, Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan Collins in Huntsville, Alabama. Now I want to bring in Bob Cusack. He's the editor and chief of The Hill, CNN political analyst, April Ryan, and CNN political commentator Kevin Madden. Happy Friday. How are you, guys? KEVIN MADDEN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Hey, Don.

LEMON: Bob, you, I like -- April, wow, look at that. I like the glasses. Very nice. Bob, are you surprised that the president --



LEMON: -- publicly went after Senator John McCain?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HILL: No. This is his style. I am surprised that his supposed list of 10 republican senators who could be a no that it didn't include John McCain. John McCain has been saying for the last couple days he is undecided. And of course, he's the one who killed the so-called skinny bill.

So this thing is really on life support. Senator Collins would have to vote yes. She may run for governor. I don't think she's going to be a yes. Murkowski voted no last time. I don't think they can get Rand Paul. And the clock is ticking, Don, as you know. They have to get it done by September 30th.


LEMON: But even if he gets Rand Paul and he doesn't get the other two, what does that mean?

CUSACK: Well, I mean, if he's able to get Rand Paul but he can't get Murkowski or Collins, well then they don't get there. I mean, that is the problem. It's that this is a numbers game and they don't have the numbers.

So, John McCain in all likelihood killed healthcare reform, the heath -- you know, Obamacare replacement again. This is the second time he's done it. I don't think anybody should be too surprised. This is -- we're not even getting a CBO score on this bill and John McCain was saying we need to do regular order, meaning deliberations and hearings.

[22:05:03] There have been no hearings on this bill. So don't be that surprised that John McCain is a no. He was a no last time.

LEMON: Well, you're reading my mind, Kevin. That was my question to you. Should people be surprised? I mean, didn't John McCain say what he wanted from any efforts to alter the healthcare system, he said it last time when he gave his speech in front of the senate? He said he wanted bipartisanship. He wanted people to work together. Should we be surprised?

MADDEN: Yes. I am not surprised. And for exactly that reason. Senator McCain does believe that this needs to be a bill that's done with regular order and that something as big as reorganizing one-sixth of the American economy should have a broader swath of bipartisan support. And I expect that one of the reasons that he was not on that list that

was given to the president was that John McCain is probably not somebody who is going to be swayed by just one phone call from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

I expect that the Intel that the White House was probably getting and as well as some of the Intel that folks up on the Hill were getting was that John McCain was pretty dug in and that he believes that this is very steadfast in his belief that this needs to be a process that's bipartisan and done through regular order.

LEMON: April, I want to bring you in, but I want to hear more from the president and then we'll talk on the other side. OK?


TRUMP: John McCain came in and he went thumbs down at 3 o'clock in the morning. And everybody.


Everybody. I know so much, folks. I could tell you. It was sad. And we had a couple of other senators, but, you know, at least we knew where we stood there. That was like really a horrible thing. Honestly, that was a horrible, horrible thing that happened to the Republican Party. That was a horrible thing.


LEMON: April, why is the president talking about the GOP bill as if he had nothing to do with it. He signed it. He tried to get senators on board. He tried to pass it. It's his bill too.

RYAN: It's very much his bill. He doesn't want to let it go. He's not going to let it go, you know. Even if all of this fails, he's going to continue and continue and continue and continue until he gets something. He does not like to lose.

But really what's striking to me is how he continues to rail against Senator McCain. We saw that during the campaign. We saw how he talked about, you know, when he doesn't like people who are caught, you know --


LEMON: War heroes. He's a war hero because he was captured.

RYAN: Yes.

LEMON: He likes people who weren't captured, yes.

RYAN: Yes, who aren't captured. And he's been railing on Senator McCain ever since then. And even so now, Senator McCain is someone who is fighting for his life but is very clear at this point that, you know, he is not going to vote something that we don't know the positives or the negatives with. And typically, you know, we've seen in the last couple of months, it's

not even been that long, every time they try to do this we've seen that people are cut. The least of these are hurt. You know, some issues that are on the table, you know, mental health and services for the opioid addiction, things of that nature.

Medicaid. I mean, you know, what is it, Don? Pre-existing conditions. People who really need help are the ones who are hurt. So -- and you also have to remember this, Don. Senator McCain is fighting for his life right now and he is able to pay for care but he's probably in the back of his mind saying I can do this, but others can't.

And he is in a real situation. This is not, you know, I'm OK, I'm with the party. He sees the reality and life and death in his hands and in his face right now with this and others could be doing the same.


RYAN: So this is very real for him and for this president to keep railing against John McCain is something very interesting to me.

LEMON: Yes. He probably could have gone further tonight and I think he, for this president, I think --


RYAN: He may want to go. And he may do about it.

MADDEN: I was surprised -- I've got to tell you, I was surprised he didn't.


MADDEN: He usually is.

LEMON: But I think he realizes the risk in that, Kevin. I mean, because I was going to say for him he was reserved. But go on. Sorry to cut you off.

MADDEN: Right. He prides himself as being this counter puncher. And we see the ways he fights with nick names and he goes after people not only for their policy -- politics or how they've disappointed him politically but personally. And he didn't do that in this regard.

And I think that's because he and some others at the White House and many on the Capitol Hill still believe that there is a sliver hope that they can find votes elsewhere and that he doesn't want to distract away from that.

LEMON: Do you think they can?

MADDEN: I think it's a very, very tall order. I know that Bob Cusack knows the Hill as well as anybody and the numbers that he was --


LEMON: Well, he does. He's with the Hill.

MADDEN: -- describing before, yes, the numbers job -- the numbers game that he was describing before is very, very daunting challenge right now for folks on the Hill.

[22:10:02] LEMON: Yes. One more thing I want you --


RYAN: But you know, but you guys, it's about --

LEMON: Go ahead, April.

RYAN: Well, it's about the undecided and it is a numbers game. But I'm going to tell you, Don. Earlier today, I was about with 1,500 mostly African-American women at the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative week, the black women's agenda luncheon and when they heard that John McCain gave a no vote to this, they all stood up and applauded.

I mean, they were rejoicing over Senator McCain feeling there is hope and again it's a numbers game. For these undecided, if their constituents come out and really make a difference in numbers it could make a difference whether this pass is fail or moves forward in any way shape or form by procedurally or by a vote.

LEMON: I want to -- this is the president speaking about his key campaign promise, the wall. Watch this.


TRUMP: What I do best, I build. So I have a concrete wall and you have Mexico. Wonderful, wonderful place. Mexico. And you have over here the United States. But you can't see anything. Right? So now they take drugs literally and they throw it a hundred pounds of drugs, they throw it over the wall. They have catapults, but they throw it over the wall and it lands and it hits somebody on the head. You don't even know they're there. Believe it or not, this is the kind of stuff that happens.


LEMON: So the president spoke about the wall. He brought up beating Hillary Clinton and winning the election. He heard -- we heard lock her up chants. I mean, he's clearly still in campaign mode, Bob, yet there's no --


LEMON: -- legislative happening.


RYAN: Happening.

LEMON: I mean, happening. What do you make of this. CUSACK: Well, I mean, in this speech tonight he talked about all

those things. He talked about NFL injuries. He talked about NFL ratings and they're down because people are watching the news. And remember, this was a rally for Senator Strange of Alabama, who is in a very difficult primary and is the underdog against Roy Moore and that race is next week.

But this is what Trump is. I mean, we saw this on the campaign trail, Don, as you know, so many sometimes is that wide ranging speech. He's talking about the wall. He says he's going to get it. But he's also willing to trade DACA what, for the DREAMers for just border security. That's not the wall.

So he's saying he's going to get it, but unless he has, I think, 60 republicans in the Senate, he's probably never going to get that wall, unless they change the filibuster rules, which is not going to happen anytime soon.

LEMON: Strap yourselves in, especially April. It's going to be a long three and a half years. All right, thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, John McCain's decision -- is John McCain's decision to vote no the final nail in the coffin of Obamacare repeal or can zombie Trump care come back to life?


LEMON: John McCain just must have killed the GOP healthcare bill but when he made this statement earlier, he said, quote, "I cannot in good conscience vote for this Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better, working together, republicans and democrats and have not yet really tried."

So let's discuss this. Former congresswoman Nan Hayworth is here of the Independent Woman's Forum board of directors, Washington Post contributor Daniel Drezner also joins us, CNN political commentator, Matt Lewis, and Tara Setmayer, former communications director for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Good evening. Glad to have you all on on this Driday. Dan, I'm going to start with you because this is an extraordinary legacy item for Senator John McCain who had to weigh friendship and party loyalty. What's your reaction?

DANIEL DREZNER, CONTRIBUTOR, WASHINGTON POST: My reaction is that the surprising element of this is the fact that his best friend in the Senate Lindsey Graham was one of co-sponsors of the bill. So, that did make it somewhat unusual. But in some ways the objections that he raised this time aren't, weren't fundamentally all that different from the objections he raised in July when he originally skinny repeal which was he kept insisting on regular.

In some ways this was worse because at least that bill had at least some degree of CBO scoring. So there was at least some measure of the effect. This one, there was no CBO score. I think there was an attempt or a plan to schedule one hearing, but this was about as far from regular order as you can get, so it's not surprising that McCain didn't change his mind.

LEMON: Yes. And listen, this is of, you know, an extremely important matter, Matt, but friends disagree all the time and remain friends. Family members disagree all the time and remain loved ones, remain family members. But you say Senator McCain had to say this because his legacy outweighed all else. Explain that.

MATT LEWIS, COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think so. And look, I mean, Lindsey Graham and John McCain aren't just friends. You know, there are people who are friends who disagree. But Lindsey Graham and John McCain are almost always allies. They're almost always together. So this was odd, I think, but, you know, John McCain -- I think it would be interesting. We'll never know this.

It's impossible to say, but John McCain, if he hadn't gotten that diagnosis, that health diagnosis, I don't know how he would have voted on this. It's impossible to say. But remember how it played out. He comes in sort of as the white night and kills the skinny repeal and he lays the predicate why he couldn't vote for it because he wanted something bipartisan, because he wanted to return to regular order. The committee hearings, amendments, all that stuff.

And as Dan was saying, I don't see how he could go from really being heroic and getting all of that acclaim and really a moment that's a legacy, maybe a swan song. I don't know if he's going to come back to the Senate or not after this term.

So he had that legacy. He got all that attention and acclaim to completely do a 180 and vote for this now would have been -- it would have really undermined all of what he did last time which was very weird.

LEMON: That's why it's surprising. Remember we were all sitting here last time, remember the skinny repeal and we were all talking and I said, you know, if anyone knows what the healthcare system is like right now, it's John McCain who is actually in the throws off it and he's dealing with it, Tara.

Do you remember that conversation? Do you agree with that and it's sort of basically what April Ryan said, you know, last segment.

[22:20:07] TARA SETMAYER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO CONGRESSMAN DANA ROHRABACKER: Yes. Well, you always have to remember that John McCain has always been the maverick, right? He's never been one to necessarily go along with what everybody wanted or he hasn't always been the most conservative senator on things.

So, I mean, John -- I agree with Matt in that with John McCain being so adamant about process before when the skinny bill went down that if that is still the same reason this time I think that's valid.

I said last night that, you know, having the CBO score, not having the regular order of going through committee and working on trying to get more support for this is problematic. I mean, republicans were very critical of democrats when they would do this on certain things and ram things through but the problem is they're up against a hard deadline with September 30th and reconciliation.

Because after that they will not be able to pass anything without 60 votes basically.


SETMAYER: And they don't have these 52 senators in the Senate. So this is, it's a challenge and this is what happens when the republicans don't have a clear message and they don't have the support of the president staying on message. His ADD is all over the place.

I talk to my sources on Capitol Hill today who told me that there's supposed to be a meeting on Wednesday next week with the entire caucus the whole GOP undisclosed location but everyone had to cancel their committee meetings and everything else to be ready for this meeting Wednesday morning supposedly to talk about tax reform now.

LEMON: Right.

SETMAYER: They're still in the middle of a major healthcare fight.

LEMON: Right.

SETMAYER: This is plague to the GOP agenda from the beginning with Trump because they're all over the place they can't stay focus.

LEMON: So, Nan, what do you think, do you think if it, you know, if it doesn't happen this time is it -- do you think it's going to happen.

NAN HAYWORTH, BOARD MEMBER, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: I have my serious doubts, Don. I don't -- I'm not confident that Senator Murkowski won't go the same way now especially since her governor has expressed his opposition to the bill which is really unfortunate. Because the bill has a lot of provisions that would actually make access to care. I mean, you can say what you want about access to insurance. And arguably that has declined precipitously in recent years.

But not just -- not just that. Access to care would be best with this one.


LEMON: OK. If it's such a great bill, right?


LEMON: Then why rush it? If it's really great then there will be people from the other side of the aisle who may jump on board and say, you know what, this is actually better than this is a way to improve the healthcare system.

HAYWORTH: Don, I think there is -- there is a real ideological divide between the democratic minority in the Senate and the republican majority. I mean, we have but a few swing senators on both sides of the aisle but not enough to constitute 60 votes to get the legislator -- legislature -- legislation to the floor for a vote and that's the problem.

And we're running out of time because of the reconciliation mechanism. Now I am to a group with the president. I think they are going to have to relinquish the filibuster if they really want to move forward.

LEMON: OK. So, when we come back we're going to back about Jimmy Kimmel and what role he's playing in this. Has he become one of, if not the leading voice on healthcare or at least the opposition to it and we're also going to hear from the vice president.

We'll be right back.


LEMON: John McCain deciding today to defy his party and the president to vote down republicans last ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare. So what does this say about the fractured party and its agenda?

Back with me now, Nan Hayworth, Daniel Drezner, Matt Lewis, and Tara Setmayer. So Tara, comedian Jimmy Kimmel played a big role in galvanizing the public opposition of the bill. He tweeted today, "Thank you, Senator John McCain for being a hero again and again and now again."

How big of an impact was Jimmy Kimmel's role in all of this do you think, how big of an impact does he had so far?

SETMAYER: Well, I think he certainly had an impact on public opinion without question. He has a platform. He relates to average Americans that people that don't live, breathe politics like we do. The average American out there will take Jimmy Kimmel's word because it comes from an authentic place for him.

I'm not saying that we should be taking healthcare policy advice from Jimmy Kimmel because he admitted he's not an expert on this and he's not. But he has a personal story that average Americans can relate to given what happened with his son.

LEMON: So he can --


SETMAYER: So it certainly has an impact. I don't know necessarily if it's impacting senators. Perhaps. But I don't think so. But if republicans --


LEMON: But it's impacting their constituents, it certainly impacts the lawmakers, the senators.

SETMAYER: Yes. But I think that the law -- not the same constituents with the lawmakers who are on the fence here. I don't think John McCain's decision was based off of Jimmy Kimmel's monologue last couple of nights. John McCain is own man.

LEMON: Nan, you say Jimmy Kimmel should not be the leading voice on healthcare. Why?

HAYWORTH: Well, because he has indeed a very moving story, but in fact, if he actually were a serious student of healthcare policy, he'd know that unfortunately, because of the way in which the Affordable Care Act works, narrow networks around the country have actually shut off access to a lot of specialized programs for children like his son.

Now, no child, thank God, in this country should be going without life-saving surgery, but that access has actually been limited by the Affordable Care Act and would be enhanced by Cassidy-Graham.


LEMON: But don't you think that he understands -- but don't you think he understand that Obamacare is not perfect? Even the staunchest democrat will tell you, I mean, you guys disagree will tell you Obamacare is not perfect. It needs to be fixed.


LEMON: But they don't want to start all over. They don't want to repeal and replace.

HAYWORTH: But that's -- Jimmy Kimmel was given this position by Senator Cassidy in effect.


LEMON: Because he said the Jimmy Kimmel test.

HAYWORTH: Right. I love Bill Cassidy. He's an exceedingly dedicated, he's a model doctor and citizen, but he betrays his nonpolitical origins by having, giving Jimmy Kimmel now this kind of arbiter shift over healthcare.


LEMON: I don't think republican realize he was giving him --

HAYWORTH: He didn't, but you know. That's the problem.

SETMAYER: And whoever his communications director is, Senator Cassidy's communications director should be fired because they should never have allowed him to name it the Jimmy Kimmel test and not be prepared to properly --


LEMON: To back it up.

SETMAYER: -- defend his own bill on this. I mean, it made him look terrible and republicans fail on this messaging all the time. It's frustrating. LEMON: Dan, you've been sitting by patiently and I want to get you

because you write a very powerful column in the Washington Post about Jimmy Kimmel, the Jimmy Kimmel effect. And you say, "The problem is not that comedians are aspiring to wade into public policy. The problem is that our policies have become so stupid and totalizing that comedian can't do their job properly without taking -- without talking about it." Explain that. What do you mean by that?

DREZNER: Well, I mean, as Jimmy Kimmel has delivered monologue after monologue attacking Graham-Cassidy a fair number of conservative critics have come out and saying who is Jimmy Kimmel to make these arguments. He's a comedian. He's a public electoral. He's not a policy wonk. Why is he doing this?

But I believe Nan said, to be fair to Kimmel. Bill -- Senator Bill Cassidy set him up for this when he declared that there's a Jimmy Kimmel test. And in some ways I would argue Kimmel actually had an obligation to respond to this bill because --


LEMON: He said it last night, Dan. He said my name is on it. What am I not supposed to respond to it? Go on.

DREZNER: Right. Exactly. So I mean, you know, if he had said nothing, it is entirely possible people would have inferred he has no problem with this bill when clearly he does have a problem with this bill.


DREZNER: It is interesting to note by the way, I believe there was a Daily Beast story that came out today that suggested in fact, Kimmel's staff had actually been in contact with Chuck Schumer's staff to get information about the nature of the bill.


DREZNER: So, when he did deliver his monologues he would actually be armed with some degree of facts. And I believe, you know, PolitiFact rated some of his more recent monologues and he did stretch the truth in some cases are exaggerated. But by and large they just declared what he was saying was probably more accurate than what Senator Cassidy said.

LEMON: OK. I want to move on. I want to talk about the -- I'm sorry. Finish your thought. Sorry about that.

DREZNER: No. That was all I was going to say.

LEMON: OK. The vice president today said if you aren't voting to repeal Obamacare, you're voting to save it. Watch this.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A vote against Graham-Cassidy is a vote to save Obamacare. The republican majority in Congress in particular was not elected to save Obamacare. They were elected to repeal and replace it, and it's time for every member of the republican majority to keep their word.



LEMON: Matt, is he right? Should republicans -- should republicans that are voting, you know, not like Rand Paul and John McCain, should they be worried about backlash?

LEWIS: Yes, I think so. Look, I mean, I think Senator McCain had very legitimate and, you know, defensible reasons for his vote against this. And it is also fair to say that republicans and Ted Cruz have been saying for years if you do this, it's a vote for Obamacare, right.

But this time it actually is, because as we've discussed, reconciliation is going to expire on September 30th, and it really is a binary choice now. You either vote for Graham-Cassidy or, look, it appears that we will have Obamacare indefinitely. So I don't think --


LEMON: And when you do, Matt --

LEWIS: -- I don't think that Vice President Pence is exaggerating this time.

LEMON: I know. But what do you do when people like the Affordable Care Act what they currently have which is Obamacare, by the way, if you're watching, you don't know the difference, they're the same thing, they like that better than Graham-Cassidy? What do you do?

LEWIS: Well, look, I think, you know, as a -- if you're a public servant and you're elected, now you have a serious question. Are you elected to represent, you know, public opinion or are you represented to do what you believe is in the best interest of your constituents. I think it's never going to be popular --


LEMON: I thought you are going to say are you for public opinion or to keep a campaign promise because I would be on the side of public opinion more than to keep a campaign policy, but.


SETMAYER: But it's about policy, though.

LEWIS: But the public is actually unclear on this. Well, I would say that I think that anytime it's coming -- if you want to change healthcare again, we just went through this, it's always going to be unpopular.

People don't -- you know, then don't want to go through that again, even if it's an improvement. So people -- there's a lot of -- there are a lot of times that the public is against something. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it if it's the right thing to do.

LEMON: Quick, I know you want to say something.

HAYWORTH: Don, the public pressure is going to keep increasing, though, because 45 percent now of the counties across the country have only one insurer in the exchanges. And premiums are on the rise yet again.

[22:05:05] LEMON: More fuel for a bipartisan bill.

HAYWORTH: It's a gigantic subsidy to the insurance industry and not the care.

LEMON: That works -- that works for everybody. I have to go. Thank you. Have a great weekend, everyone. I appreciate it. Great conversation. When we come back my next guest says President Trump may deserve an award for chutzpah. I don't know if I ever said that's funnier. Chutzpah. We'll discuss.


LEMON: Senator John McCain may killed the republican's attempts to repeal Obamacare for a second time but is this really the end of repeal and replace. I want to talk about that now with Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times. Good to have you on.


LEMON: Thank you very much. We have a lot to cover, but I first want to ask you about this Graham-Cassidy proposal and then John McCain said he couldn't vote for it in good conscience, sinking this bill probably in its entirety.

KRISTOF: Would they if they would detach it.

LEMON: What's your reaction?

KRISTOF: So, I mean, I think that this probably does kill it, and I think it also -- you know, these issues have momentum so I think this is going to then affect the tax reform. I think it's going to make it harder to pass tax reform which is already a pretty uphill struggle.

[22:40:04] And down the road infrastructure finance which is also -- it's difficult to fit in this year's agenda. But I think it just makes the broader Trump agenda, you know, that much more difficult to achieve when he loses what he was starting out with.

LEMON: Who do you think he spoke? The president spoke tonight. He spoke of the bill as if it was a republican bill and he had nothing to do with it. Is it the president, is it Congress? Is it the American people who have now come to like Obamacare, the polls show that it's more popular than Graham-Cassidy. So whose fault is it?

KRISTOF: Well, I mean, ultimately -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: All of it.

KRISTOF: I mean, but when you have a republican president working with a republican Congress and you can't get 50 votes in the Senate to do something that they've all been talking about for years, then something is wrong, I think, with that presidential leadership.

But, I mean, you know, fundamentally there was something profoundly wrong with the bill which is that every healthcare expert thought it was awful and would harm the health of the American public. But one of the things I fear is that now President Trump is going to try to undermine Obamacare not through the legislative process so much but by not providing the cost sharing subsidies which would hugely undermine it by --


LEMON: But isn't that happening somewhat now that it's been --

KRISTOF: Yes, I mean, he --


LEMON: Especially with the rhetoric.

KRISTOF: And every time President Trump talks about how it's going to die under its own weight, you know, the image I think of is somebody who is stepping on the oxygen hose of the patient and then saying, look, the poor patient is dying. I mean, it's because you're stepping on the oxygen hose.

LEMON: Yes. And I hear people say that and if you actually read, if you read up on it and you look at the fact checks, it's not -- it's not collapsing under its own weight.

KRISTOF: Absolutely not.

LEMON: There are a number of different factors.


KRISTOF: I mean, it had --

LEMON: It's a wide struggle. It's a huge problem.

KRISTOF: Yes. It certainly has difficulties, but it has actually been stabilizing, but it does -- I mean, it does need some fixes. It does need those cost sharing subsidies.

LEMON: I wonder if there will ever be a bipartisan proposal. And let me caveat that, I want to read this. Because John McCain said "I believe we could do a better -- we could do better working together, republicans and democrats and have not yet really tried." What would look better, will there ever be a bipartisan proposal, do you think? KRISTOF: You know, it's not impossible. There was a real effort in

that direction and then it was put aside because of this effort to kill Obamacare. You know, maybe that can be revived. I think there are some people on both sides who really do want to repair and improve Obamacare.

LEMON: Let's move on, shall we? I want to talk about North Korea, because at the UNGA this week President Trump calling Kim Jong-un a rocket man on a suicide mission for himself. And then in your op-ed in the New York Times you wrote the following. You said, "If there were an award for United Nations chutzpah, the competition would be tough, but the meddle might go to Trump for warning that if necessary we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. There were gasps in the hall, a forum for peace was used to threaten to annihilate a nation of 25 million people."

Your thoughts on the president's comments?

KRISTOF: I mean, it was not just tonally wrong. It was counterproductive. The basic problem here is that we need diplomacy to defuse a situation and both President Trump and Kim Jong-un are temperamentally inclined to react any by escalating. And so, indeed, that is what has happened.

President Trump made his comments about totally destroying North Korea and now Kim Jong-un has made a remarkable statement, the first that anybody knows of in history of North Korea in which the leader of North Korea directly made a comment to a foreign head of state and I think, unfortunately, kind of painted himself in a corner which is going to make it much harder for North Korea to ever try to negotiate some kind of a deal on its -- on its nukes and on its missiles.

So, I'm afraid it's going to be a lot harder this coming, beginning this coming week to try to negotiate some kind of peaceful outcome than it would have been a week ago.

LEMON: That's why everyone always says take the high road when it comes to dealing with Kim Jong-un and North Korea.

KRISTOF: You know, speak softly and carry a big stick but don't shout and bluster in ways that just make it harder to antagonize allies and make it harder to achieve peace.

LEMON: Thank you.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you, Don.

LEMON: Always good to see you. Thank you very much. When we come back, President Trump calling Facebook's Russia-related ads part of what he insists is the Russian hoax. But who is really behind those ads and how sophisticated were their efforts?


LEMON: President Trump at his rally tonight in Alabama slamming the Russia investigation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Just in case you are curious, no, Russia did not help me. OK? Russia. I call it the Russian hoax.


LEMON: Here now to discuss is Issie Lapowsky, the senior writer at WIRED. Her reporting on Facebook appears on Also with me Jamil Jaffer, a former associate White House counsel to President George W. Bush, and Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. So good to have all of you on this evening. Thank you so much.

Renato, I'm going to start with you. We're learning tonight that the Department of Homeland Security has informed as many as 21 states that Russian hackers targeted their election infrastructure ahead of the 2016 election. What were they trying to do and were they working with anyone to do it?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I will tell you, I was shocked to hear that news because frankly, we are getting close to elections. Here in Illinois we have an election coming up in March. And frankly, the warning could have come earlier to let states know that they needed to guard against another attack and investigate what had happened.

But certainly, one thing that we do know is given the search warrant that was executed at Facebook, that CNN and others have reported about, there can be no doubt that a federal judge has determined that there is probable cause, in other words a good reason to believe, that a crime occurred on Facebook. And there is evidence of that crime. And that crime would be a contribution to the election by a foreign individual.

[22:50:00] And so while the president seems very sure that Russia had nothing to do with the election, I think, you know, unless he knows something that we don't, I think that the judge who is a neutral third party has a good idea of what's going on.

LEMON: So let me ask you, then, Jamil, the president said tonight in his rally, you heard him that he got no help from the Russians. Is that true? I mean, we know they certainly tried and that the assessment from the entire intelligence community, that's the assessment. The president loved touting everything from WikiLeaks, you know, hacks, on the campaign trail. Is he right?

JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, look, Don. there's no question that the Russians tried to influence this election, there's no question that Russians are engaging a larger covert influence operation, principally to disrupt the U.S. government I believe to function and to be very successful at it, right.

We've seen Russia talked about every day in the news. It's clear that President Trump has been hampered in his ability to function and Congress has investigated this issue. So this Russian covert influence operation has been dramatically successful. Absolutely there's an effort by Russia to manipulate the election and to try to, you know, undermine confidence in our electoral system.

LEMON: But is he right? That was my question. Is he right, he said he got no help from the Russians?

JAFFER: Well, you know, it's unclear whether the Russians help, who the Russians were trying to help, what they're trying to do. What they were surely trying to do was to manipulate the election process and undermine our confidence and with that they've been successful, right. Whether they were trying to help Donald Trump or not, you know, I mean, I don't think it matters all that much.

What matters really I think at the end of the day is that they were successful in their effort and are continuing to be successful. We continue to talk about these things. Which look, we have to do because it's part of the news. But they were successful in, you know, influencing our election system and undermining confidence.

LEMON: What about, Issie, the story of the Russian-backed Facebook ads that Facebook is turning over now to investigators? It's like that we're seeing the tip of the iceberg. Do we know how sophisticated these efforts were?

ISSIE LAPOWSKY, SENIOR WRITER, WRIRED: We really don't. Facebook has been really reticent about this. So far the only people that Facebook has shared information with are special investigator Robert Mueller.

And just yesterday, they announced that they will be sharing this information with Congress. And that follows weeks of Congress asking for this information. The public is still largely in the dark about what these ads contained, about how many people they reach, about how Facebook even found them frankly.

If we don't know how Facebook was looking for these Russian ads we can't know what else is out there. Facebook is not criminal investigators. This is not their area of expertise. And I think they really need to call in help, which it seems like they are doing now.

LEMON: Why do you think they were so reticent to turn it over and now what do you think the push was a tip, a tip --


LAPOWSKY: It's not a great look to be the biggest advertising platform on the planet and having sold ads to Russian that's may have influenced the American election. That's not a great look. So Facebook doesn't really want to publicize that. I think it was a little out of their hands. This is the biggest story in the country and arguably the world right now and Robert Mueller is looking into this. And I think that it was very important, that these ads which are digital fingerprints that the Russians left behind get into his hands for a proper investigation.

LEMON: You know, Jared Kushner touted that he, you know, targeted, highly targeted Facebook advertisements on Facebook from the Trump campaign, was very proud of it. And also, what did those ads look like? We'll talk about that after the break.


LEMON: Back with me now, Issie Lapowsky, Jamil Jaffer, and Renato Mariotti. OK, so, Renato, I want to ask you about this. We know that Jared Kushner was very proud of the Trump campaign's use of the highly targeted advertisements on Facebook. He spoke about it with Forbes magazine back in November. Is that an angle you think investigators are pursuing?

MARIOTTI: Absolutely. I think that, you know, Mueller has gotten -- has executed the search warrant, he's gotten all this data. And what the search warrant shows is that he is, you know, he is looking at foreigners who contributed to our election and the crime that he believes that they've committed.

So, the next step is going to be for him to figure out which Americans may have assisted in those efforts. What your viewers may not know is that, if you know that a crime is being committed and you do something tangibly to move that crime forward you are also guilty of that crime. It's called aiding and abetting.

And so if any American, whether it's Jared Kushner or someone else, help the Russians target their advertising, help them develop their advertising, help them conceal what they were doing, those people are also guilty of those crimes. So I suspect that is going to be a major focus of the Mueller investigation.

LEMON: Issie, we wanted to show our viewers what these ads looked like, what to show, you know, what to look out for, what to keep an eye about for. But they haven't been made public. Facebook has only handed them into investigators. Why is that?

LAPOWSKY: Facebook doesn't want the public to see the ugly truth I think is the answer. But their excuse is that they cannot divulge all these details about an ongoing investigation.

However, they did say yesterday that they are going to be presenting Congress with copies of these ads and some information about the ads and they trust that Congress will do with it what it sees fit. I do want to point out that the -- there are no ties so far between the Trump digital operation and these Russia-linked ads.

These ads that were purchased from Russia were purchased by as far as we know a group called internet research agency, which is a known propaganda group that operates out of St. Petersburg. There are so far no ties between the Trump digital campaign that the Kushner's talked about and this Russian group. So I think we have to be very careful about distinguishing between those two.

LEMON: But don't you think this is a real inflection point for Facebook, I mean, how they handle this going forward? Because there could be a real backlash if it's --


LEMON: Go on.

MARIOTTI: I'm sorry, Don. No, I was going to say, Don, I agree with you. And frankly, speaking as a lawyer, Facebook has got very good lawyers.