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Trump to End Key Obamacare Subsidies; Trump Poised to Decertify Iran Nuclear Deal; California Fire Death Toll Climbs. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: President Trump aggressively moving to dismantle a key part of Obamacare while the Democrats are calling it sabotage.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening today in yet another move to walk back Obama administration policies, President Trump will announce a new strategy towards Iran. He is expected to decertify the Iran nuclear deal.

BRIGGS: It's the deadliest week of wildfires in California's history. Death toll rising and 400 people are still missing. If there's some glimmer of hope, it's that the winds are quieting down a little bit.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, October 13th, Friday the 13th, 4:00 a.m. in the East, 1:00 a.m. in California.

Breaking overnight, a stunning move by the administration, could come as soon as today. The White House announcing President Trump plans to cut off the cost-sharing subsidies that help lower income Americans by health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. Eliminating these direct payments to insurance companies has the potential to drastically increase costs for some Obamacare customers.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Chuck Schumer releasing a scathing statement. It is a spiteful act, a vast pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America. Now, millions of hardworking American families will suffer just because President Trump wants them to.

BRIGGS: And Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who is retiring at the end of his term tweeted, cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district. POTUS promised more access, affordable coverage -- cutting health care subsidies will mean -- all right, let's -- this does the opposite is the point from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Apologies for that.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defending the move, saying in this statement, the bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system. There, Sanders is referring to a judge's ruling that the subsidy payments are illegal because Congress never appropriated money for them.

ROMANS: Well, that ruling is on appeal. The Trump administration continued making payments month to month until now. The move is just the latest by the White House to dismantle parts of Obamacare. Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order broadly instructing his administration to develop policies increasing health care competition.

Here's the president on Thursday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will sign an executive order taking the first steps to providing millions of Americans with Obamacare relief. This will cost the United States government virtually nothing. And people will have great, great health care. And when I say people, I mean by the millions and millions.


ROMANS: Specifically, the executive order calls for a steady and expanding so-called association health plans. We reported to you that these are plans that allow small businesses to band together to buy health insurance. The new rules will make it easier for those associations to form across state lines.

BRIGGS: The executive order would also make short-term health policies more attractive by lengthening their duration from the current three months to a year. But these short term policies don't have to comply with Obamacare rules, on things like preexisting conditions, an essential health benefits.

Critics say Thursday's order may create a loophole. Health insurance markets with lower premiums and skimpier coverage that would siphon younger, healthier Americans away from Obamacare. Meanwhile, older and sicker Americans would face potentially skyrocketing premiums.

ROMANS: All right. Ending key subsidies will speed up Obamacare's implosion, costing millions of Americans health coverage. Insurers rely on these cost-sharing programs.

You know, the president calls these a bailout to insurers. Really, they're a bailout for American healthcare consumers. They lower deductibles for nearly 6 million low income Americans. It doesn't affect premiums but makes a huge difference for some Obamacare enrollees.

For example, for those just above the poverty line, it lowers the average deductibles to $255 a year. Compare that to $3,600 for a traditional silver plan. So, without that subsidy, they will see huge increases in cost next year. Let me say that again, for people just above the poverty line, you will see huge increases in cost next year.

These subsidies will cost the U.S. $7 billion in 2017. The president has threatened to stop payments for months. It's part of his aggressive push, of course, to dismantle Obamacare.

[04:05:01] And that uncertainty caused many insurers to hike rates by 20 percent next year or drop out entirely. Insurers who didn't price in the loss of these subsidies can sue or they can raise hikes, a fresh problem for Obamacare less than three weeks before open enrolment.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, President Trump expected to decertify the Iran nuclear deal today, despite the international community's assessment that Tehran is in compliance. The president's plan will put the burden on Congress to figure out a way forward, and it's raising concerns about a potential backlash that could set the stage for a another nuclear crisis.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Oren Liebermann live from Jerusalem.

Good morning to you, Oren. What is the potential impact of decertifying this deal?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is one country, I should say, first, that isn't worried about decertification at all, and that's Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been over the past, what, two, two and a half years, the biggest critic of the Iran deal and the he sees this as a chance to do what he's tried to do ever since it was President Obama in office, and that is fix or change the Iran deal or get out of the Iran deal in some way, which is what he's lobbied Trump to do, even if this is a half measure, essentially just kicking the ball down to Congress.

We won't see any criticism from Netanyahu, because this is what he sees Trump as -- he sees Trump should be doing, which is to say decertifying the deal, kicking it to Congress to make some move whether it's on sanctions, or keeping the deal in place, but it will be up to congress, not the presidency, not the Donald Trump. Even so, it's what Israel has wanted, even as just about every other country, especially Europe and the other members of the deal have tried to urge and push Trump not to decertify the deal, to keep the JCPOA in place.

Now, instead of lobbying Trump as it seems that he is set to decertify the deal, they have moved onto Congress because that's where the decision-making will be over the next couple of months. And that's where the focus will be on what happens next to the Iran deal.

Critically, it will be Netanyahu lobbying for it, and that will be one of the big questions, how vocal is he in his lobbying. It will be Netanyahu pushing for Trump to move forward here, pushing for Congress to move forward here remaining as the biggest critic of the deal.

Again, we'll see what Trump does. We expect his speech a little later on today. And then critically we'll see what Israel does and other countries who are pro the deal will do.

BRIGGS: Nothing inspires confidence like handling it, letting Congress handle something right now, right?

Oren, thanks so much, live for us, 11:07 there. ROMANS: At the podium yesterday at the White House briefing, the press briefing, the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, making a rare experience in front of the cameras to do some damage control. The retired Marine Corps general knocking down reports he will soon be leaving the administration, knocking down reports that he is miserable in his new job. Listen.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I will just offer to you that, although I read it all the time pretty consistently, I'm not quitting today. I don't think I'm being fired today. And I am not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving. Unless things change, I'm not quitting. I'm not getting fired, and I don't think they'll fire anyone tomorrow.


ROMANS: Pretty remarkable press briefing. Some people are calling it a breath of fresh air.

Kelly also said he was asked whether he considers controlling the president to be part of his job description.


KELLY: As far as the tweets go, it's funny, I read in the paper -- you all know, you write it -- that I've been a failure at controlling the president or a failure at controlling his tweeting and all that. Again, I was not sent in or was not brought to this job to control anything but the flow of information to our president.


BRIGGS: And he has been successful on that note.

There's a reason why the president sent Kelly out for the press briefing. Take a look at the headlines last week.

The "Vanity Fair" article: I hate everyone in the White House, Trump seethes as advisers fear the president is unraveling.

"The New York Times", Bob Corker says Trump's recklessness threatens World War III.

And CNN: Tense and difficult meeting preceded Tillerson's moron comment.

ROMANS: All right. Nine minutes past the hour.

This is now one of the deadliest fire sieges in California history. State officials now say 31 people have been killed in four northern California counties, 400 people still reported missing. Sonoma County officials are still conducting searches for people in these burned areas. Ten of those killed have now been identified ranging in age from 57 to 95 years old. BRIGGS: The satellite image just published by NASA gives some sense

of the huge extent of these fires, some high serious clouds of obscure parts of the burn area. But you can easily see the long trails of smoke that run from north to south near the coast.

For more, let's turn to CNN's Dave Simon on the scene in the heart of California's wine country.


[04:10:01] DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, we are in the hills above Calistoga, the town that is known for its wineries and spas. And firefighters are doing everything they can to keep that town safe. We spent sometime with the crew, went for a ride along.

At one point, things got very dangerous. We saw the flames hop over this natural barrier here, Highway 29. And the flames inched their way towards the community, saw a lot of urgency. Firefighters did everything they could to get those flames out. They did, but the situation remains dangerous for that city.

Calistoga still under a mandatory evacuation order. And the whole situation remains precarious because on Friday night, the winds expected to kick up. Expected be about 40 miles per hour. In the meantime, in terms for those reported missing, that numbers continue to fluctuate, but right now, it's at about 400. That is a scary number to be sure, but authorities hope it will be pared down as people report that their loved ones have been found safe -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Dan Simon, thanks so much for that.

Ten minutes past the hour.

Three weeks after a deadly hurricane slammed Puerto Rico, the president is threatening to abandon the island. We can't be there forever, he says, after being there three weeks. We'll have more on the backlash, next.


KELLY: They're not going to be there forever. And whole point is to start the work yourself out of the job and then transition to the rebuilding process.



[04:15:23] BRIGGS: The House of Representatives approving a $36.5 billion disaster aide package to help victims struggling to recover from a string of devastating hurricanes and wildfires across the country. But the president appearing to put a deadline on how long federal agencies would help Puerto Rico, tweeting, we cannot keep FEMA and the military and first responders who have been amazing under difficult circumstances in PR, Puerto Rico, forever.

ROMANS: That tweet not sitting well with the mayor of San Juan who shot back on Twitter, saying, quote, as your comments about Puerto Rico are unbecoming of a commander-in-chief, they seem more to come from a hater in chief.

Meantime, the governor of Puerto Rico largely stayed away from criticizing the federal response tweeting, the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens receive our nation.

BRIGGS: The two men now running the Weinstein Company after Harvey Weinstein was fired could be next out the door. Co-founder Bob Weinstein and President David Glasser have come under increased scrutiny of what they may have known about allegations against Harvey Weinstein that go back decades. At least two dozen women have now come forward accusing the disgraced movie mogul of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape.

ROMANS: Actress Kate Beckinsale posting in Instagram about a meeting she had with Weinstein when she was just 17. She said he opened the door in his bathrobe. I was incredibly naive and young, it didn't cross my man that this older and unattractive man would expect me to have any sexual interest in him. After declining alcohol and announcing that I had school in the morning, I left, uneasy but unscathed.

Meantime, CNN has learned Weinstein is being investigated on both sides of the Atlantic.

We get more from CNN's Brynn Gingras.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, at this point, detectives are looking into accusations. We've heard from police in London that a report of sexual abuse involving Weinstein has come into their department. And then here in New York, the directive the top brass gave to the Special Victims Unit is to identify, to locate and to interview victims who have made accusations. Now, that order was in direct response to "The New Yorker" article which names one woman as at least, Lucia Evans.

Now, she claims she was force to give oral sex in his New York office back in 2004. And NYPD detectives are looking for her, trying to talk to her family members. They want to see if there is a case there.

They're also looking, I'm told, to identify a woman who was not named in that "New Yorker" article. I'm told by investigators that would include talking to Ronan Farrow as part of their work since, of course, he wrote that piece.

Now, at least two dozen women have spoken out publicly about incidents happening with Harvey Weinstein. But at this point, no one has come forward and filed a criminal complaint at least with police here in New York. And NYPD, the district attorney, they are both encouraging victims do come forward.

Of course, it does not end there. Investigators have to look at each incident separately. They have to see if the statute of limitations applies in each incident, see if there's enough evidence to even bring to prosecutors. I'm told going back to that 2004 incident with Evan, Weinstein could be subject to arrest if there's evidence. In other words, the statute of limitations would not apply here -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Brynn, thank you.

BRIGGS: When you consider limitations on sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, why would there be one? Rehab is not the place for a man like this.

ROMANS: Especially when you're talking about predatory behavior on young people, on people where you have the power, they have no power. It can take -- you know, you can see why it would take a long time for somebody to come to grips with that and say, wait, I would like -- I would like some justice.

BRIGGS: Yes, that's what I'm getting at, yes.

All right. Well, the Chicago Cubs pulling off a victory against the Washington Nationals last night. Moving on to the NLCS. We'll show you how they did it, next.


[04:23:47] ROMANS: All right, stunning report in "The Washington Post" this morning. The Interior Department flies a special flag whenever Secretary Ryan Zinke is in the building. According to "The Washington Post", a security staffer goes to the roof and hoists the secretarial flag when Zinke enters the agency's Washington headquarters. When he leaves, the flag comes down.

It is apparently a military tradition resurrected by Zinke, a former Navy SEAL commander. A department spokesperson defends the personal flag practice to "The Washington Post", calling it a major sign of transparency.

The queen did that in Buckingham Palace, right?

BRIGGS: It's very interesting, no doubt about it. If it is transparent, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It's a good move. But it's certainly interesting.

ROMANS: Did he make headlines for riding in the first day of work on a horse.

BRIGGS: Yes, what's usually about that?

ROMANS: Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.


ROMANS: I'm riding on my high horse every day.

BRIGGS: You do indeed.

All right. To baseball, the Chicago Cubs reaching the National League Championship Series again, third straight year with a heart stopping 9-8 win gave five over the Nationals. It was a wild four run fifth against Washington ace Matt Scherzer who was actually on in relief. Put the defending Cubs in the lead for good, the rally sparked by that two run double.

[04:25:00] Chicago's seventh pitcher closer Wade Davis, seven out save, his longest relief appearance in five years. Cubbies get the Dodgers in game one of the ALCS Saturday night. The ALCS Yankees- Astros starts tonight. Your cubbies could do it again, could defend their title.

ROMANS: I'd like to apologize to my children's teachers this morning, they will be tired.

BRIGGS: And grumpy, it's Friday.

ROMANS: They were up late last night.

All right. Two of the most consequential decisions of the Trump presidency, dismantling Obamacare and the Iran deal will be one step closer today.


TRUMP: This is the worst deal. We've got nothing. We've got nothing.



ROMANS: Breaking overnight, President Trump aggressively moving to dismantle a key part of Obamacare while the Democrats call it sabotage.

BRIGGS: Happening today, yet another move to walk back Obamacare administration policies. President Trump will announce a new strategy towards Iran. He's expected to decertify the Iran nuclear deal.