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President Trump Chips Away at Obama Legacy; Trump Will Stop Short of Scrapping Iran Nuclear Deal; Trump Speaks to Conservative Voters. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I am Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I am John Berman. We have some live pictures for you this morning. Hopefully, any minute now, we will hear from President Trump. He's speaking to the social conservative - his social conservative fans on a morning that he has made two major decisions with major consequences for the country and for the world.

First, on Iran, he says he will decertify but not leave the Iran nuclear deal, not leaving it despite all of the awful things he said about it during the campaign in the first months of his presidency.

HARLOW: Including, I think, the worst deal ever, but see what happens. He is also, this morning, taking aim at Obamacare. The Trump administration is officially scrapping some $7 billion in annual subsidies for low income Americans, poor people. Some 6 million people, more than half of the enrollees qualify for these cost sharing payments. Two big things to get to, Jeff Zeleny is at the Values Voter Summit as we await the president. He's set to speak in just minutes. Before he does, talk to us about both of these moves.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and John. You're right. President Trump is on his way here from the White House to the Values Voters Summit where conservative activists from across the country have gathered here in Washington to hear their president. He is the first sitting president to address this group. A conservative group that's sponsored by the Family Research Council here but the president, I am told, will talk about health care. He will talk about how he is taking steps to roll back the Obama era programs.

Of course, first and foremost today is the Iran nuclear program. The president will deliver a major address on that from the White House this afternoon. But it is important to point out. He is stopping far short of pulling out of that deal. Of course, as you've said of the campaign trail, he repeatedly called it the worst deal ever, but he has twice since certified the deal since taking office. But his administration has been embroiled in a deep conversation much disagreement about what to do going forward. So, they're striking somewhat of a middle ground here. He will announce the decertification. That is simply saying that he believes that Iran is not in compliance of the program. Will essentially ask Congress to review this and to allow 60 days for Congress to give a review and potentially impose new sanctions. The president will also call out Iran, I'm told, very forcefully about their financing of terrorist networks in the region and their development of ballistic missiles.

So, again, on Iran, the president stopping short of what he said he would do by pulling out of the deal, but that's comfort to many of his supporters like Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, because they were urging him to stay in this deal to give some type of structure around the Iran nuclear agreement. John and Poppy?

BERMAN: All right, Jeff Zeleny right now. And again, we will hear from the president any minute. He is on his way, driving over to the Value Voters Summit as we speak. We'll go back to the president when he gets there.

In the meantime, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in Tehran ahead of the president's announcement on the Iran nuclear deal. And CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour joins us as well. And Christiane, you know, again, for all the talk about tearing up the Iran deal. The headline this morning is that the United States is staying in the Iran nuclear deal. The sanctions will remain. What is the impact of the president's move today?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, will they remain, we'll just have to see. It is up to Congress, right? I mean, the president can't dictate to Congress what they decide to do. Maybe Congress will decide that they've got one too many major global issues. Maybe Senator Corker, you know, in terms of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and maybe all the senators who believe that actually this does at least bracket one of the most serious problems that the United States, so it had - you know, leading up to the deal. And that was a potential Iran nuclear military program.

It doesn't have that program anymore, and or ever. It never had a military program, and Iran is complying with all the components of that deal. That is why from sitting over here, whether it is the British prime minister, the French president, the head of the EU foreign policy, the Russian president, the Chinese president, everybody whose signatories to this deal, including - I have just spoken to a former Israeli prime minister. They do not believe ditching the deal is in anybody's interest. And so, we've just got to see what happens next.

HARLOW: We do. Fred Pleitgen, to you, you're in Tehran. What's the reaction there thus far as they saw what came out of the White House early this morning?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. Well, there's a variety of reactions here in Tehran. There's certainly some disappointment. There is some anger. But on the whole, I would say if you talk to government officials here. They are saying, look, despite all of this we're not going to budge on our own positions.

In fact, one of the things that Iranian officials have been saying is they believe that if there's this decertification, that the U.S. would be isolating itself. They keep saying, look, you have to keep in mind the Iran nuclear deal is not a deal between America and Iran. It is a deal between America, Iran and a lot of other countries as well.

[10:05:07] And the head of parliament here, the speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, he came forward and he said and I quote, "I do not think that the world has taken allegations made by Trump seriously," and then he goes on, "As far as I know, the stances adopted by the European countries, Russia and China in reserving the JCPOA," which is of course the acronym for the nuclear agreement, "is like the stances adopted by Tehran and such hasty measures by the U.S. will create problems for them as well as other countries."

So, certainly, the Iranians believe that most other countries are actually on their side in all of this. And certainly, you have heard for instance from the Russians saying that they believe that Iran is abiding by the nuclear agreement.

And it's also, of course, very interesting, Poppy, when you speak to regular folks here. Our crews went out today and spoke to both hardliners here in Tehran, as well as moderates, and especially among the moderates who were so in favor of this agreement, who thought it would bring economic benefits, who are looking forward to also better relations with the U.S., many of them are quite disappointed and are now saying, look, maybe this Iran nuclear agreement wasn't all it was cut out to be. Hardliners for their part are saying, look, we told you so. They're saying the U.S., they believe, simply can't be trusted. John and Poppy?

BERMAN: You know, Christiane, the president likes to frame himself as a great deal maker. And he keeps on saying he wants a better deal with the world on the Iran nuclear program. Does anyone else in the world feel pressured by the move the president is making today? Is he putting them in a position where they're more likely to do what he wants?

AMANPOUR: Well, this is a very, very interesting question. Because obviously, when the United States does something, it tends to have exponentially strong resonance around the world. The U.S. is the super power. In this case though, it is not just the United States as Fred explained, it is China, Russia, Europe, et cetera, and it is a U.N. Security Council resolution.

But he is the real crux of the matter. What's the objective? What's the end goal? Is the end goal to continue having Iran's nuclear program severely hampered, severely bracketed with no path to any nuclear military or what? If the goal is to address all of the outstanding issues that the world has with Iran, which is its activities in Syria, its support of Hezbollah, its support of regional militants in terrorism, its influence in the region, its missile program and this and that, if that's -- and human rights violations. If that's the idea, it will not be part of this. It was never part of this nuclear deal. So the idea that you can, I don't know, tinker, ditch the deal, bring the nuclear thing back into play and make that, you know, another big, big part of uncertainty in today's dangerous world, you know, if it had been possible to have that all-encompassing deal, that's what those powers in the world would have done. It was impossible. So this is an instance of not allowing perfect to be the enemy of the good in nuclear security matters at a time when you have a North Korean actual nuclear weapons intercontinental ballistic missile that is out of this table.

HARLOW: Fred Pleitgen, Christiane Amanpour, thank you very much. Stay with us as we bring in our political panel. And again, we're waiting for the president. We'll see if he addresses this live as well with our CNN political analyst Margaret Talev, CNN political commentator Paul Begala and Scott Jennings, and our political director here David Chalian.

David, let's get to the politics of this. What are the politics behind this because whatever he says, this is not a scrapping of or throwing out of the deal, this is a punt to Congress. Why does this help the president? Does it help the president?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: There's no doubt you're right, it is a total punt. But he will try to frame it as coming through on a promise. It is not fully coming through on a promise which was the sort of tear this up and get out of this. But he will make the case that this is not the right way to move forward, and that will -- he will try to sort of talk to his base on that and say, I am dismantling something from the Obama administration as I said I would do. And this is the process by which we're going to dismantle it.

I think the more important sort of political questions here that are going to need to be answered is sort of how the president deals with the fact that he is in a different place than some of his advisers, right? We heard Mattis last week on the Hill sort of testify the opposite of the argument that Donald Trump is going to make today. We see that his advisers found him sort of a middle road and in off ramp here for now. But I do think they're still lacking sort of the answer to the question of what has changed since July 17th when Donald Trump did recertify this deal last time? What has demonstrably changed since then for him to now take this action at this point today?

BERMAN: He got sick of not being able to claim that he was fulfilling a campaign promise. That's basically it. It will be interesting, Margaret, to see what he does with Congress right now because all the reporting is he is not going to be actively pushing them to re-impose the sanctions.

[10:10:04] And I think that if you're in Congress right now, this puts you in a bit of a bind. If you're a Republican, for instance, you're going to say let's sanction Iran right now, so they start their nuclear program, restart it in three weeks?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, you're exactly right, now that the action is moving over to Congress, there's a potential way that this works in the president's favor. And that is in this area that we've been hearing about the desire to get a better handle on ballistic missile activity or terrorism activities in the region and that sort of thing.

If the president was able to convince Congress to move ahead on sort of parallel series of restrictions that don't touch the JCPOA directly but they do say Iran has to get, you know, improve on various areas. And then, if Congress were to agree to that, and then if the Europeans were to agree with the U.S. to change it, and if they could maybe bring China into the mix and if the Iranians were open to it, then wow. You know, President Trump could really do something here.

But there's the other alternative which is that the president asked Congress to not impose sanctions now but somehow get tougher on Iran. Congress does nothing. And then what happens? Then, three months from now, you're back where you are now. And that's the scenario that I think Mattis and Tillerson and McMaster are all probably sort of preparing for in the back of their minds. That's a real alternative.

HARLOW: Scott, as a conservative, advisor of Republican presidents before, reading all of the talking points, few pages long from the White House early this morning, one of them is that it will quote, "deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon." This does not guarantee that. I mean, this punts it back to Congress. If they do sanction, then you're not denying Iran all paths to nuclear weapon, you're insensibly opening the door. You're not?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what the White House is doing today is partnering effectively with Senator Bob Corker and Senator Tom Cotton. Corker and Cotton are unveiling legislation that would effectively eliminate the sunset provision on the nuclear issue that a lot of conservatives have been upset about. What the Republicans in 2016 were really upset about was that they didn't think Obama had gotten enough out of Iran. And part of the issue was the sunset deal.

So the Iranians continue to be bad actors. They continue to be engaged in terrorist activity. They continue to develop missiles. They can threaten Israel. And we don't want to give them a chance in the future to go back and have a nuclear weapon, you know, in 2025 when this thing sunsets. So, if the deal can be strengthened and Congress can get its arms around what Corker and Cotton are trying to do here. Then it will be a win for Trump. And that's what he is trying to accomplish today.

BERMAN: You know, Paul, President Obama said that when he signed this deal, he was hoping that Iran would behave differently in the region, be less aggressive, less hostile. Critics say that just hasn't happened. So does that strengthen President Trump's hand here?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If the critics are right, that's why they're saying it because Iran does sponsor terrorism. The nuclear deal is simply about the nuclear program. If you want to stop Iran from sponsoring terrorism, there's a lot of Democrats who would join, Senator Cotton or Corker on - for example, naming the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization. Other sanctions targeted at the sponsoring of terrorism. The Iranian nuclear deal is a silo. It slows and really cripples the Iran nuclear program for now. It is sunset, but for now. So for now the bigger problem is not that deal which twice as Chalian points out, twice our president has certified that the Iranians are complying but it is to move to a different front.

I think it is a terrible mistake to blow up the nuclear deal because of these terrorism issues. If you want to attack Iran sponsorship of terrorism, which is real, go at that, Mr. President. You have Democrats help you with that because Iran does sponsor terrorism. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a nuclear deal with them.

BERMAN: All right, guys, stick around. We're going to see how the president frames this issue. He's due to take the stage at the Values Voter Summit any second right now. It will be an adoring crowd, this is a group -

HARLOW: For sure.

BERMAN: -- of social conservatives that's very supportive of the president. We will bring you there live.


[10:18:14] BERMAN: Live pictures right now from Washington, D.C. This is the Values Voter Summit. This is sponsored by the Family Research Council, of course, a group of social conservatives. They hold this meeting every year. No sitting president has ever spoken there. President Trump will be the first. He is due to arrive any second. He has spoken there three previous times as a candidate and as a politician.

HARLOW: But now a sitting president. This will be an adoring crowd as you will hear in moments. You see they just checked the mike. They just put the president's remarks, people are standing. We're standing by, waiting for the president. He will be announced by Tony Perkins, the president of Family Research Council.

As we wait for the president, let's get to this because a big move on Obamacare. He promised - the president -- to fix Obamacare piece by piece late last night. He went after a huge piece. He ended officially a big government subsidy to insurance companies that money goes to help poor people afford health care coverage.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, our chief business correspondent is here. As again, as we wait for the president and our panel is still with us. Just give an overview of exactly what this means.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, ending these key subsidies is going to mean it will speed up Obamacare implosion and it will cost millions of Americans' health coverage. We're talking about nearly 6 million low income Americans, individuals who earn less than 30 grand a year, families earning less than 61 grand.

You know, insurers rely on these cost sharing subsidies to help pay for the lower deductibles, for those low income Americans. It doesn't affect premiums, but it makes a huge difference for low income enrollees.

I'm going to give you an example. Take a traditional silver plan. For those just above the poverty line, the subsidy -- lowers their average deductible to 255 bucks a year that will be 3600. That's a big difference. And that's why these Americans could see huge increases next year.

The president has threatened to stop payments for months. And that caused many insurers already to hike rates for next year.

[10:20:04] About 43 percent by more than 20 percent. Some major players have dropped out. Insurers that didn't price in the loss of those subsidies, they can sue or they can raise rates, all of this a new problem for Obamacare, less than three weeks before open enrollment.

HARLOW: So, look, what happens now, there is no way -- I guess Congress could approve the money for this. But that's not likely. Is it, right?

ROMANS: The argument from the White House right now is they say that those payments are illegal. That Congress should be -

HARLOW: Federal judge ruled they are.

ROMANS: Right. And then it was held in abeyance after that. -- So there could be that angle of this. But essentially this is the president of the United States making good on a promise that Republicans in Congress couldn't do. He can't repeal or replace Obamacare because that didn't happen. So, now through executive order, he is taking it apart piece by piece.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thanks so much for being with us.

Again, you're looking at live pictures from the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. That's Tony Perkins, the chairman of the Family Research Council. He is introducing the president. We will hear from him any second. While we wait, our panel is back with us.

Scott Jennings, Republican strategist, we are talking Obamacare. The president deciding to end these subsidies to insurance companies which helped lower income Americans pay for their insurance, more than 6 million Americans pay for their insurance. You know, he wants to end Obamacare but is it worth doing it on the backs of these lower income Americans?

JENNINGS: I feel like we just breezed past the most important issue here. These payments are illegal. A federal court has ruled that these payments are illegal and the president is relying on guidance from his own Department of Justice. So we can talk about the effect of payments, but we have to right up front acknowledge this is an illegal propping up of Obamacare to begin with and the president having to respond to that court issue.

HARLOW: Hold that thought. Let's listen to the president of the United States.



Thank you. Thank you very much.



TRUMP: Thank you very much. You know, I've been here before.


You do know that. Before the big day on November 8th, I was here. I want to thank Mark Meadows and all of the folks that have really made this possible. And, Tony, tremendous guy.

We have some incredible people that we love and that we're involved with. So we all know that. And I'm being followed by Mr. Bennett -- you know that, right? And I've been watching him say nice things about me before I knew him. Those are the ones I like -


TRUMP: -- where they speak well of you before you know them. Right?

But I really want to thank everybody, and, Tony, for your extraordinary leadership of this organization. And I want to thank, also, Lawana, for your dedication to the faith community and to our nation. Work so hard.

It's great to be back here with so many friends at the 2017 Values Voter Summit, and we know what that means.


We know what that means. America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened and sustained by the power of prayer.


As we gather for this tremendous event, our hearts remain sad and heavy for the victims of the horrific mass murder last week in Las Vegas. It was an act of pure evil.

But in the wake of such horror, we also witnessed the true character of our nation. A mother laid on top of her daughter to shield her from gunfire. A husband died to protect his beloved wife. Strangers rescued strangers, police officers -- and you saw that, all of those incredible police officers, how brave they were, how great they were running into fire.

(APPLAUSE) And first responders, they rushed right into danger.

Americans defied evil and hatred with courage and love. The men and women who risked their lives to save their fellow citizens gave proof to the words of this scripture.

[10:25:01] "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."


All of America is praying for the wounded and the grieving, and we will be with them today and we will be with them forever.


Just want to finish by saying that -- really, and we understand it was so horrific to watch and so terrible -- but to those who lost the ones they love: We know that we cannot erase your pain, but we promise to never, ever leave your side. We are one nation, and we all hurt together, we hope together, and we heal together.


We also stand with the millions of people who have suffered from the massive fires, which are right now raging in California, and the catastrophic hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands. And I will tell you, I left Texas, and I left Florida, and I left Louisiana, and I went to Puerto Rico, and I met with the president of the Virgin Islands.

These are people that are incredible people. They've suffered gravely, and we'll be there. We're going to be there. We have, really -- it's not even a question of a choice. We don't even want a choice. We're going to be there as Americans, and we love those people and what they've gone through. And they're all healing, and their states and territories are healing, and they're healing rapidly.

In the wake of the terrible tragedies of the past several weeks, the American people have responded with goodness and generosity, and bravery. You've seen it. The heroism of everyday citizens reminds us that the true strength of our nation is found in the hearts and souls of our people.

When America is unified, no force on Earth can break us apart.


We love our families. We love our neighbors. We love our country. Everyone here today is brought together by the same shared and timeless values. We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life.


We believe in strong families and safe communities. We honor the dignity of work. (APPLAUSE)

We defend our Constitution. We protect religious liberty.


We treasure our freedom. We are proud of our history. We support the rule of law and the incredible men and women of law enforcement.


We celebrate our heroes, and we salute every American who wears the uniform.


We respect our great American flag.


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And we stand united behind the customs, beliefs and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people.

George Washington said that "religion and morality are indispensable" to America's happiness, really, prosperity and totally to its success. It is our faith and our values that inspire us to give with charity, to act with courage, and to sacrifice for what we know is right.

The American Founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence -- four times.


How times have changed. But you know what, now they're changing back again. Just remember that.