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Trump on Niger Deaths; Trump Says Obamacare is Dead; Mario Withdraws as Drug Czar Nominee; Fire in Santa Cruz; Couple Survives Wildfire in Pool. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired October 17, 2017 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:30:00] JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Donald Trump is, which is disappointing when that's the person sitting in the Oval Office.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I mean he did talk about how hard it is for him, how hard these phone calls are for him. He did say that.

PSAKI: That -- that's true. And that is something that every past president has felt. But there's -- there are things that are the right thing to do and the right way to handle the men and women who have served. And I would love to see him welcome wounded veterans more frequently to the White House. I would love to see him go visit troops who are recovering at Walter Reed. I'd love to see him call gold star families. Those are things I'm aware of that are happening. But those are things certainly I would encourage the White House to do because everybody president should be doing this.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well --

CAMEROTA: Well, let's leave it there. Ben Ferguson, Jen Psaki, thank you very much.

Chris.

FERGUSON: Thanks.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so President Trump on another important front, health care. He declares that the Affordable Care Act is dead, but it is the law of the land and there is no replacement in sight. So, what's this about? We're going to get reaction from one of the men who ran Obamacare under President Obama, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:35:01] CUOMO: President Trump says that Obamacare doesn't exist anymore. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamacare is finished. It's dead. It's gone. It's no longer -- you shouldn't even mention it. It's gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. It is a -- and I said this years ago, it's a concept that couldn't have worked. In its best days it couldn't have worked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. And we have no idea what is going to replace it, if anything, anytime soon. Joining us now is Andy Slavitt. He's the former acting administrator of the Center's for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Andy, what am I missing? I mean I get -- I guess he's saying that this is -- he's trying to say that politically, I guess, that they're going to move away from this. But what's your take on that message?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Well, it's really hard to know what he means when he says things like that. I mean, look, let's start with what's important. We're two weeks out from open enrollment. And everywhere in the country millions of Americans want to know if insurance is available to them, and it is. So when he says --

CUOMO: You think that's part of the reason that he's saying it, is that -- I mean we know that he's closed the window.

SLAVITT: Who -- who knows?

CUOMO: He's pulled back on marketing money to try and get people to enroll.

SLAVITT: Right.

CUOMO: He certainly seems to be trying to kill what the ACA does.

SLAVITT: Right.

CUOMO: But do you think this is part of that effort?

SLAVITT: I worry that it is. I worry that it is because it's very unhelpful for him to say that.

Now, on the other hand, the part of truth there is to what he's saying is by two to one Americans now believe that what happens from here on in is his responsibility, not as he tries to make it the past president's responsibility. So given that, you know, we're -- we are in Trumpcare land now with the actions he's taken last week to butcher the law even further, to make the markets work not as well.

But coverage is available. He's just got to realize the American people think he owns what happens from here on out. And, by the way, for better or for worse.

CUOMO: Now, in terms of what he did last week, the way you characterize it, the cost-sharing revenues, he said the federal government won't pay them anymore. The law, which he says no longer exists, mandates that the providers gives those discounts, so they will anyway. The question becomes, how do they pass off the cost?

Now, he says this was a move of political bravery because it forced Congress to do something about the law and specifically those cost- sharing revenues. And now we do have Lamar Alexander with a bill that would keep them. So was this the right move for the president?

SLAVITT: Well, if he -- if he means what he says, what he really needs to do now is he needs to support, not only Senator Alexander, but getting a bipartisan bill through this -- both houses of Congress. Particularly with the caucuses so divided, he should be actively involved. So if we see him actively involved over the next several weeks, pushing hard to get a bipartisan bill done, getting people to compromise, that would be a good sign.

You know, it's hard to take one statement and understand where he's going with it. But I -- but I think it's very, very important for him. I think the Democrats have never left the table. Senator Alexander's still at the table. They need his support.

CUOMO: Well, look, you know, to be honest, I mean the Democrats aren't in control, but they aren't driving this ball forward. There are conversations going, but, you know, this -- there's a little bit of a wait and see. There's a little bit of standing on the sidelines. There's a little bit of watching it burn going on with the Democrats as well. That has to change.

But the way I read this bill, it would re-establish the revenues and put in some block grants shoring up aspects of a law that the president just said is dead. I don't get it.

SLAVITT: Right. Well, look, it's all about compromise. And, you know, what we need is a true compromise. We need something that preserves the ability for people to get health care and brings their premiums down. And if both sides -- and, look, I've seen -- from what I've seen of the bill, I think there's a real chance it does this. But if both sides stop worrying about what does one side get and what does the other side get and focus on the simple question, will more people pay less money for insurance, there's a deal there.

And I think Senator Alexander and Senator Murray really are having that conversation in good faith. I hope it -- you know, it's going to get more complicated, of course, as you get more people involved and the politics get involved. But that's where you need the leadership from the president to come in and say, guys, focus. We just did something that's going to make everybody's premiums go up. We just did some things in this executive order that are bad. Let's go fix those things and make this thing work better. It would be a very good sign.

CUOMO: One thing that they could do that would bring down premiums, what would that be?

SLAVITT: Well, look, what they've done by pulling back from cost- sharing reductions is they've raised the deficit projections by $200 billion. Now, that's a great opportunity to take some of that money and invest it back in things that are going to bring rates down, like a -- perhaps a reinsurance program. They could also commit to marketing again. They could commit to reaching out to the American public and letting them know that coverage is available. If they did those things as part of any kind of compromise, that would be a very good step forward.

[08:40:05] CUOMO: That would bring premiums down or it would just bring more people into exchanges where they're not getting enough competition and you're not getting proper pricing?

SLAVITT: Well, both. Well, both, because the people that are harder to reach, Chris, are actually the young, healthy people. And so if you don't reach out to them, what we found was then the people who -- the only people who sign up -- or the first people to sign up, of course, are the people that have a current illness. So the outreach is important, not just because of the law, but it's important because it keeps everybody's prices lower.

CUOMO: And that's one of the fundamental discussions going on now -- right now, Andy, is that some people don't accept that premise that we're all in it together and that the healthy have to pay a little bit more so that the infirm can have an affordable health care.

SLAVITT: That's right. That's right.

CUOMO: That's a big part of the sell. We'll see where the moral agency and leadership of the president comes in on that one.

Andy Slavitt, thank you very much for your perspective on this.

Now, this is something that has to be debated. And we're going to see a debate tomorrow night. Not on this, but it's somewhat related, because the money that they want to take out of health care supposedly is going to help fund tax cuts. So, big battle between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, will be your moderators.

CAMEROTA: OK. A California couple, listen to this story. They were jolted awake by these fierce wildfires that are raging in California and it was closing in on their home. Their quick thinking saved their lives. We'll tell you their incredible survival story, what they decided to do, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:45:35] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news right now for you, because President Trump has just tweeted moments ago. He saying, Congressman Tom Marino has informed m he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great congressman! This comes after a "Washington Post"/ "60 Minutes" story that shows Marino pushed a bill that made it more difficult for the DEA to crack down on prescription opioids.

Joining us now is CNN political director David Chalian.

Not a surprise, but certainly the swiftness with which this happened is surprising.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, not a surprise at all. The president made clear in the Rose Garden, he said he was going to look into this. By no means was he sort of embracing Marino at that point and standing by him as the right man for this job. What I find a little confusing about the president's tweet is, it seems that Congressman Marino was out of consideration and out of the running for the drug czar job because of what he did in Congress, and yet, according to the president's tweet, he's a great congressman. So I don't -- I don't fully understand how those two things square.

CUOMO: How did he make it to the top of the list for drug czar when the man championed a law that made it harder to keep opioids off the street? I mean that's the question. It's not whether or not once your shamed into realizing how ridiculous a move this is, something happens and h's made to step away. How did he get there?

CHALIAN: Well, yes, how did Michael Flynn get to be the national security adviser? I mean you could ask questions time and again. The vetting process for a lot of Trump appointees has not been the most thorough and substantial that we've seen in history, Chris. So I don't think it's new to this White House to have a bit of a vetting problem and not fully exploring the ramifications of the person you're nominating for a certain job.

CAMEROTA: David, I mean part of what is complicated here is that this is just yesterday the president announced that next week he'll be making an announcement calling the opioid crisis a national emergency. So, without a drug czar in place, what does this mean for next week?

CHALIAN: Yes, well, he gave all indications yesterday that he was still moving forward with that announcement, even while he was going to be looking into this investigative report. You know that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has been heading up a task force for President Trump on the opioid crisis. And you guys know from talking to people, this is a real crisis that has sort of just made its way across the country. There's not a community across the land that hasn't been touched by this.

And, Alisyn, you've heard it in talking to a lot of Trump voters when you do those groups as well. This is a priority number one for a lot of people that Donald Trump counted on support for, came across on the campaign trail. So I would doubt that we're going to see any diminution in effort by the Trump administration to get its hands around this crisis.

CAMEROTA: Some of them were single issue votes. I mean some of them that we've spoken to lost children to an opioid overdose, and they voted for President Trump because he told them specifically that he was going to fix it immediately. So they've waited ten months and they're ready for something to happen on this.

CUOMO: Well, he could have done it right out of the box, too. I mean we have a documentary, and I keep telling everybody, this Friday night at 9:00. We spent time with the firefighters that Trump put his arms around and said, I'll be there for you, brothers. And they're still waiting for resources.

And, remember, the irony of this should not be lost on people. What makes opioids different in a major way is that it's been top down. It's been big pharma. It's been doctors. It's been dumping them on the streets from prescriptions. This law that Marino championed did a lot to hurt the ability of our enforcement agencies to keep that from happening. I mean you just can't make it up, that this is the guy that they wound up looking at.

CHALIAN: Exactly. And now it's clear he's out. I do think we'll still need to ask the White House today when we have an opportunity why the president still considers him a great congressman if indeed with this crisis he was one of sort of weakening the regulatory structure around it.

CUOMO: And find out who -- you know, the question has to be, who proposed Marino and why? Let's see if they answer that.

CAMEROTA: All right, David Chalian, thank you very much for your help with that breaking news.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

CUOMO: All right, and we do have more breaking news.

Two wildfires are raging out of control further south in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles County. That's what you're looking at right now. These are live images. This is the Bruce Fire near the Mt. Wilson Observatory. The blaze began last night in Santa Cruz as a house fire. So this it's just a natural extension of the blaze that they've been dealing with, but it did quickly spread, forcing 150 evacuations.

[08:50:09] CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us with that latest information about the conditions in the area.

We do know Santa Cruz. You know, you're dealing with a lot of sappy, coniferous trees up there. Fires love to feed on those things. How are they looking in terms of wind and wetness?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. So I think the key factor going forward the next few days is actually going to be the temperatures, and that will help the firefighters tremendously. We're going to see the temperatures drop in southern California, but especially in northern California.

Take a look, Santa Rosa going from ten degrees above average today, to nearly 15 degrees below average on Thursday.

Now, this particular forecast brought to you by Purina. Your pet, our passion.

And one of the other things that we're really hoping, guys, to get out of this is some rain. We've got this next system that will be making its way through over the next two days. We do have a lot of rain expected for Washington and Oregon. But, yes, even some of that is expected to creep into portions of northern California. It's not going to be much, Alisyn, but at this point I think they will take absolutely any rain they can get. CAMEROTA: Absolutely. They're desperate for it.

OK, Allison, thank you very much for that.

So these fierce wildfires trapped a California couple in their home. We have their incredible survival story of hiding in their swimming pool, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Forty-one people have been killed in California wildfires. Others have run for their lives. One couple, Daniel and Cindy Pomplun, missed the warnings to escape and they woke up to flames racing towards their Santa Rosa home. They tried to flee, but it was too late, so they jumped in their swimming pool praying that would save them from the flames.

And Daniel Pomplun joins us now.

Daniel, thank goodness you're alive. We're so happy to have you. Tell us this story.

Did you always have a plan, if there were wildfires, to go to your swimming pool, or was that just instinct?

DANIEL POMPLUN, LOST HOME TO WILDFIRES AND SURVIVED IN SWIMMING POOL: I actually saw something on television a long time ago about how to survive a wildfire. We tried to apply as many of the principles we learned from that show as we could. And, yes, we sort of new once we couldn't get out that the pool was the plan.

CAMEROTA: And so, Daniel, I mean some of us who obviously haven't lived through this are so naive as to think, well, hop in your pool, that solves the problem. You know, problem solved. But what was it like enduring that time in your pool?

POMPLUN: Well, it was extremely hot at times when the house was burning down. But actually even before that, I think the most important thing was actually to stay in the house when the initial wave of fire went through. That's what really prevented us from getting any really harmful stuff. We jumped in the pool afterwards when most of the vegetation was already burnt.

CAMEROTA: So -- but how were you able to stay in your house during the wildfire?

POMPLUN: Well, the house protected us from the fire.

CAMEROTA: And it didn't catch on fire?

POMPLUN: The house caught fire, but it took half an hour -- well, it did catch fire, but it took half an hour before it was bad enough that it forced us out of the house.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. But tell us, what was it like in the pool? I mean what was the -- what was the sensation? Were you under water, were you just right above the water? What was it like?

POMPLUN: We were trying to be in the water, like up to our necks, and we were frigid cold, you know, from the -- from the neck down. But then it was boiling hot from the flames, from, you know, neck to the top of our head.

[08:55:11] CAMEROTA: Oh, my God. Well, do you know what the water temperature was in your pool?

POMPLUN: It was probably about 50. It was pretty cold.

CAMEROTA: So were you trying to stay submerged, your whole head underwater, and then just coming up for air, or were you staying just neck deep?

POMPLUN: Well, when the flame was at its worst, we would have to dunk down underneath the water maybe every five seconds or so just to cool off. And then take a breath or two and then dunk back down. And we did that for maybe 15 minutes, 20 minutes, just to keep ourselves cool.

CAMEROTA: And, Daniel, how long did you hide there in your swimming pool?

POMPLUN: Probably about 90 minutes or so we're estimating. But the -- the middle 30 was the worst part. It was really -- it was really the difficult part to make certain that, you know, we were keeping cool at the time.

CAMEROTA: And did you think -- were there times during those 90 minutes that you didn't think that you would survive this?

POMPLUN: No, I don't think we were ever quite in that level of danger. We were fortunate, you know. The pool was big and we had been saved from the worst of the blaze going through initially.

CAMEROTA: Yes. There was another couple that did the same thing. And as you may know, the wife didn't survive this.

POMPLUN: Right.

CAMEROTA: Daniel Pomplun, thank you for sharing your story, and thank goodness you saw that TV show on how to survive a wildfire and you followed that to a t and survived.

Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

POMPLUN: Yes, you're welcome.

CAMEROTA: CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman will begin after this very quick break. We will see you tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:00:07] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everybody. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman.

New this morning, the president does not blame anyone for anything today.