Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Speaks to Values Voter Summit; Trump on Iran Deal; Trump Ends Subsidies; North Korea Threat To Launch Missiles Toward Guam. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:04] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.


The president, this morning, putting pen to paper in an effort to reverse two key Obama era policies on health care and Iran. After sharp criticism, the president will announce his strategy on the Iranian nuclear deal. A strategy, though, that will importantly fall short of scrapping the policy despite calling it a terrible deal.

This comes as the president also takes aim to another big part of President Obama's legacy, Obamacare. The Trump administration will get rid of $7 billion in annual subsidies for poor people across this country. Some 6 million people, more than half of the enrollees qualifying for those cost paying -- paying -- cost-sharing payments will be effected.

BERMAN: They are consequential, these moves. So how will the president frame them this morning? Action on Obamacare? Relative inaction on Iran?

Well, we'll know in minutes. The president will address the Value Voter Summit. He'll be the first sitting president to address this gathering of social conservatives. You're looking at live pictures right there. This is hosted by the Family Research Council. This will be an adoring crowd to say the least.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is there. He joins us now.

And, Jeff, we woke up this morning to talking points to the Iran nuclear deal and what the White House intends to do on it.


Good morning, John and Poppy.

President Trump will later today announce that he is going to decertify the U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear program. Now, of course, we heard him throughout the campaign and indeed throughout this year talk about how the Iran nuclear program is, in his words, the worst deal ever. Yet that he has certificated it twice as president. But today he will announced that he is going to decertify the program. And essentially that means that Iran is not compliant with the program.

It also has a couple other things. Let's look at these points. It will send to Congress the chance to review this in the next 60 days, to look over what sanctions can be imposed if the regime does not become compliant in the U.S. view. It will also -- the president will outline a combative approach to ballistic missiles and the role that Iran is playing in the region in terrorists attacks.

So this is going to be a sweeping speech coming later today about the Iran nuclear program, about Iran. It is something that the president, again, has talked about a lot. But we should point out, he is very much taking a middle ground here. He is not ripping up the deal, not disposing of the deal as he talked about so many times. He is simply saying Iran is not in certification of this. So that speech will come later.

But he will be addressing the Value Voters Summit this morning. And, John and Poppy, I can tell you, he will be touting the fact that he is rolling back both of these Obama-era provisions. But the point here, Congress has struggled to pass any legislation here. He is doing that on his own. So that, of course, is the big, open question about this Iran nuclear deal. What will Congress do, if anything, in 60 days.

John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

As we wait for the president, you'll hear him live on this show.

Let's go to Tehran, though. That's where our Fred Pleitgen join us on the phone.

Fred, what is the reaction this morning there?


Well, there -- there's obviously a lot of anger here in Tehran. It's really over two things that the folks here believe is going to happen. On the one hand, it is, of course, the Iran nuclear agreement, and then also the U.S. possibly, after the president's speech at some point declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. That's something that's caused massive backlash, even the threat of that, in Tehran.

Now, one of the things that Iranian officials are saying, Poppy, they say that, look, everybody else who signed off to the deal is saying that Iran is, in fact, in compliance with the deal, and so is the International Atomic Energy Agency. And the speaker of parliament here in Tehran, his name's Ali Larijani. He came forward and he said, quote, I do not think that the world taken allegations made by Trump seriously, he says. Then he goes on, as far as I know, the standards (ph) adopted by the European countries, Russia and China, in reserving (ph) the JCOPA, which of course the acronym for the nuclear agreement, is like the stances adopted by Tehran and (INAUDIBLE) measured by the U.S. will create problems for them as well as other countries. So the Iranians, on the one hand, saying they're quite relaxed about what will happen. They say they're ready for anything. But, of course, there is a lot of anger. And you know our crews today -- this is something interesting. We went out and we spoke to both hardliners here in Iran, as well as moderates, because, you know, this country's quite divided as well. And certainly among the moderates, there was a lot of disappointment that the U.S. would take this stance. There's a lot of folks here who believe that Iran and the U.S. could become closer after the nuclear agreement was put in place. The hardliners, who have always been against this agreement, are saying basically, look, we told you so. We believe you can't trust the U.S. And a lot of them are saying that they believe that something like this would happen all along, Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, Frederik Pleitgen for us in Tehran. An important day to be in that country, to gauge the reaction as we will hear from the president twice today we'll hear him probably talk about this.

[09:05:05] Joining us now, CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson and senior associate at the Carnage Endowment and an Iran expert, Karim Sadjadpour.

Nic, I want to start with you here because for all the bluster about the Iran deal, and there will be more bluster today, we're going to hear from the president very shortly. I'm sure we'll hear about Iran there, and then later, when he announces the concrete moves, his steps appear to keep the United States firmly within the confines of the Iran nuclear deal. So what is the immediate impact of all this bluster today?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's uncertainty. It's raising a question about something that the other co-signatures, Russian, China, Britain, France, Germany, all seem to be in agreement on that it's working, it's the best that could be put in place. It provides important safeguards about Iran trying to make a nuclear weapon. And it's the best deal out there. And if you start breaking that deal, Iran will break out of it. it sends broader, negative signals.

So, you know, it's uncertainty because President Trump is the only one who's talking about Iran being out of compliance. And from a Russian perspective sitting here in Moscow right now, they're making that very clear. They think the damage is the issue of nonproliferation around the world, increases the chance of instability, and that if Iran is compliant with the deal, which the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose charge -- they're charged with making these quarterly reports, say that it is, then the obligation is on everyone else who's a signatory to remain signed up. So it's that uncertainty is really the question.

HARLOW: Karim, as someone who has written extensively on Iran, here is one thing that you wrote, there are good reasons to be critical of Iran, but attacking the nuclear deal, but by doing this Trump makes Tehran look moderate and mature and the United States looks dishonest and unreasonable. That's your take. He's not pulling out, but he is making the appearance that the United States is not supportive of it. I guess that's the best way to put it. How will the world perceive this?

KARIM SADJADPOUR, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Well, in some ways the anticipation people had was much worse than the reality.


SADJADPOUR: I think people were really word Trump was going to totally tear up the deal and take a much more aggressive stance towards Iran. It is certainly more aggressive than the Obama administration. But it's clear that Trump's national security brain trust, General Mattis, McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, they've talked him off the ledge.

And if you're, you know, entrusted with U.S. national security, you're dealing with so many global crises. The last thing you want to do is gratuitously create another crisis with Iran.

And as Nic mentioned, other countries around the world, Europe, Russia, the Chinese, they're all dealing with internal challenges. The last thing they want to do is open up another challenge with Iran.

So my perception is, with the exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia, almost all major countries around the world, including U.S. allies, think that Iran, in this instance, has been much more reasonable than President Trump.

BERMAN: One area where the president will be quite critical of Iran, Nic, is on the ballistic missile testing, which is not mentioned in the Iran nuclear deal, but it is something that goes against U.N. provisions. Will the United States -- will the president have support from around the world in pressuring Iran on this point?

ROBERTSON: Sure. He will. It's a cause for concern, particularly in Europe. You know, Russia and China may have separate views on it. Russia, for example, sells weapon systems to Iran, anti-aircraft weapon systems, for example. So there's a mutual military trust between -- of sorts between Russia and Iran.

But, broadly speaking, the ballistic missile system is something that -- is something that will cause concern. The United States will find support.

You know, when they -- when this JCPOA was agreed, it was the terms of reference and the framing was to frame out some of the other contentious issues. They -- like ballistic missiles. They remain contentious. But it was seen as focus on one thing, the most dangerous thing about Iran at that moment, and kind of neutralize that threat. But ballistic missiles absolutely remain a big issue.

HARLOW: Karim, in terms of whether or not this deal is effective, right, the president's rhetoric is, this is a worst deal ever, this is terrible. However, he's not -- he's not going as far as he could with it. The -- his chairman of the joint chiefs, Joseph Dunford, said that Iran is, quote, not in material breach of the agreement. So just facts, is it working in preventing Iran from moving forward with its nuclear program? [09:10:02] SADJADPOUR: The deal has certainly curtailed Iran's nuclear

program pretty significantly and subjected it to more transparency. I think, ultimately, this is what I would call a good deal with a bad regime. It was something which world community, you know, China, Russia, Europe, worked very hard on. You're never going to totally get Iran to give up its -- the entirety of its nuclear program. But what was achieved was pretty significant.

But as Nic eluded to, it didn't change other aspects of Iranian behavior, which we find very concerning, whether that's support for the Assad regime in Syria, Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen and Lebanon, and the domestic treatment of its own people, human rights abuses at home, the taking of U.S. citizens hostage in Iran, all those bad aspects of Iranian behavior have continued.

But I think that President Trump's advisers recognize that if you do want to pressure Iran, you need a united international front. You really need the support of European allies because Iran doesn't trade with United States, it trades with Europe. It trades with Japan. It trades with China. And so you need the support of those countries to pressure Iran. If it's just unilateral U.S. pressure, it's not going to be as effective.

HARLOW: All right, Karim, thank you very much for the expertise.

Nic Robertson, you as well. We appreciate it.

A lot a head for us this morning. The president has scrapped subsidies that help poor people pay for health care. So, what do they do now?

Also, North Korea says its hand is closer to the trigger, renewing its threat to launch missiles towards Guam.

BERMAN: Plus, this morning the president says he will always be with Puerto Rico. Yesterday he said he can't be there forever. So does forever equal always? Stay with us.


[09:16:00] BERMAN: This morning millions of lower income Americans need to know how they will afford their health care coverage after the president's dramatic overnight move against Obamacare. Effective immediately the government will stop giving insurance companies money to help many enrollees pay for their coverage.

HARLOW: It's about $7 billion worth of subsidies this year, and this is what the president has written this morning, "The Democrat's Obamacare is imploding, massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies have stopped. Dems have called me to fix. Obamacare is a broken mess. Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the greatest health care it deserves."

Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is here with that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: He calls it a bailout for insurance companies, but that bailout for insurance companies goes to low income Americans to help them pay for health care and ending those key subsidies will speed up Obamacare's implosion costing millions of Americans their health care coverage.

Who am I talking about? We are talking about nearly 6 million low income Americans. These are individuals who earn less than $30,000 a year. These are families earning less than $61,000.

Insurers rely on these (inaudible) to help pay for their lower deductibles. It doesn't affect their premiums, but it makes a huge difference for these enrollees. For example, take a traditional silver plan, for those just above the poverty line, the subsidy lowers the average deductible to 255 bucks a year. Without it, it's $3,600.

That's why these Americans could see huge increases next year. Now the president has already threatened to stop paying these payments for months and that has caused many insurers already to hike for next year.

Most of them, but 43 percent of those carriers by 20 percent. Some major players have dropped out already, but insurers that didn't price in the loss of these subsidies, they have a couple of things they could do. They can sue or raise rates and that's a brand-new problem for Obamacare which is three weeks to open enrolment.

BERMAN: You know, one of the words the Democrats are using is sabotage. What the president is trying to do is sabotage Obamacare. That's a loaded term, but we do have evidence that the administration is trying to undermine the success of Obamacare.

ROMANS: He said to let it implode, but essentially the White House is helping it implode, by pulling back these subsidies, by shortening the open enrolment period and by taking that website offline for 12 hours every Sunday.

But you look one after another and it's as if the White House wants it to be hobbled and wants Democrats to try and come -- this is not fixing Obamacare. This is sabotaging Obamacare is what the Democrats say, but it's hastening its implosion, yes.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. Your action this morning to this overnight move from the president halting these subsidies to insurance companies.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, R-CALIF.: Good morning, John and Poppy. This move, it feels like a hostage negotiation with the president tweeting out Democrats call me as he continues to hurt low income patients and also if insurers pull out of marketplaces, John, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that premiums could go up as high as 19 percent for all of us.

So, this is -- he's acting I think erratic. We have read reports in the "Washington Post" and "Vanity Fair" that he's becoming more and more unstable. I hope his advisers can talk to him and tell him this is hurting real people and you know, you shouldn't be so spiteful, and come to the table and put the fixes in place that are needed but don't do it this way.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So, Congressman, as you well know, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C. last year, in May of last year ruled that these payments were illegal because Congress never appropriated the money. The president has been talking about this and threatening this for a long time. So, I mean, this has not been determined to be legal on any front.

SWALWELL: Poppy, we should appropriate the money, you know. That's something we can do in Congress if we did it in a bipartisan way. You know, we were making progress in the Senate with Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray negotiating over how to make these fixes, and of course, when the Graham/Cassidy bill came forward, that halted that.

[09:20:03] We still have an opportunity to go back and put that funding in place, but, you know, it has to be done in a bipartisan way. I don't think the president going after his own party is helpful either. He's alienating them, and I think affecting the ability of both Democrats and Republicans to sort it out.

BERMAN: The court did say it wasn't legal, correct?

SWALWELL: Without congressional appropriations.

BERMAN: So, he is stopping something which the court has determined not to be legal. There is this negotiation in the Senate between Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray to make these payments, the concessions from the Democrats would be some more state flexibility to meet Obamacare standards.

So, what would that mean? What would you be willing to give up in terms of Obamacare standards in order to get these subsidies?

SWALWELL: Well, the standards of providing essential health benefits is not something I think we want to give up. That's, you know, routine checkups and maternity care, you know, things that people rely on and if you have skimpier plans if he wants people to have, it will cost all of us more.

What we are willing to negotiate, I believe, would be increasing the risk corridors in the high-risk pools, that's something that I think Republicans and Democrats agree on and so -- but come to the table. Also on the court case you talked about, that has not been completely resolved. That was a district court case.

HARLOW: You are right, but they are giving the government the chance to appeal it to a higher court. The issue is that the Trump administration is not going to appeal it in the way the Obama administration did.

SWALWELL: That's right.

HARLOW: Let's get you on what the president has announced this morning on the nuclear agreement. He will talk about it out loud in a few hours, but we have a long list of descriptions from the White House on this one. This is not, no matter what he says this morning, this is not throwing out the nuclear deal.

This is decertifying and he's punting it back to you, guys, and you guys have to decide in 60 days, do we put sanctions on Iran or not effectively ending, nullifying the deal. Are you encouraged that the president did not rip this thing up?

SWALWELL: I don't want to see him throw out the deal. I also think that it's not helpful to create more uncertainty around the deal, while, you know, suggesting that, you know, he's going to stop certifying or that we would impose more sanctions.

More sanctions on the nuclear side would threaten to blow up the deal and have Iran walk away. Remember, we took a nuclear threat out of the world and now we only have to deal with North Korea as far as a true adversary that could go after us, so why would we do anything that would jeopardize adding a new nuclear threat and I think the president is playing a risky game here with what he's doing.

BERMAN: Can I ask you a question about California politics since we have you right now?

SWALWELL: Yes. I am a California politician, yes.

HARLOW: That is a fact.

BERMAN: He knows what is coming. CNN learned yesterday that Dianne Feinstein will have a challenger in the Senate race next year. The state, Democratic state, Senate President Kevin (inaudible) is going to run against Diane Feinstein. Will you support the incumbent senator in this election?

SWALWELL: She has not asked me yet, John, and I hope she does because I would support her. I think she has done a terrific job, not just as the intelligence chair, somebody that worked through our national security issues but on gun violence.

We were reminded a few weeks ago in Las Vegas that because we have made it easier for people to have firearms we are more vulnerable to these types of shootings. This is something she has been fighting for since she became mayor, when the mayor of San Francisco was killed by gun violence, she passed the assaults weapon ban, which expired and I think we need her fighting for us in the Senate.

HARLOW: I guess that rules out a run for you, right?

SWALWELL: That rules out a run for me, but she should call me, and I would happily help.

BERMAN: We can set this call up, Congressman. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

All right. North Korea reviving its threat to launch missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam. We'll have the very latest next.



HARLOW: This morning, North Korea renewing its threat to launch missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam.

BERMAN: North Korean state media says the U.S. should be tamed with fire and the nation has its hand closer to the trigger as it considers counter actions for self-defense.

Want to get the latest with CNN's Will Ripley, who of course has been to North Korea many, many times now. So, Will, what is with this new fresh round of rhetoric. We have not heard about Guam for some weeks?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have not, but I think it's noteworthy that we are hearing about it now, John and Monday, because on Monday, the U.S. and South Korea will be kicking off with yet another round of joint military exercises. These are naval drills.

And we know that North Korea has been very unhappy lately because the U.S. deployed a nuclear submarine to the region and aircraft carrier to the region and these navel drills kick off and the naval drills are often an impetus for North Korea to conduct provocative acts.

Over the last two years after the joint military exercises, they conducted two nuclear tests. They've launched scores of missiles and so now you have this new article in North Korean media essentially threatening once again to launch these missiles towards Guam.

And I want to show the last two North Korean missile launches took a trajectory over Northern Japan. They traveled about 2,300 miles. Had those missiles been pointed to the south, they could have easily reached the U.S. territory of Guam, home to more than 160,000 U.S. citizens along with key military assets.

This would be North Korea's most provocative missile test ever if they follow-through with it. But the messaging for North Korea, they never ruled out launching towards Guam. Kim Jong-un back in August said that he was going to watch U.S. behavior.

And if the United States in their view acted recklessly then North Korea said they would potentially go forward with the launch towards Guam, and of course, since then we've only seen tensions escalate. President Trump called Kim Jong-un "Little Rocket Man."