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Former FOX News host, Bill O'Reilly, settled a sexual harassment; President Trump spoke out about whether he has been asked to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller; President can't seem to make up his mind about something that would impact millions of Americans; More than a month now since hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 22, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: You see the President has publicly attacked a number of the lawmakers that he will be meeting with. And his former White House adviser Steve Bannon has literally declared war on their seats. But in a brand-new interview, President Trump says he thinks all the fighting is actually helpful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you worry that this bickering and feuding gets in the way of your agenda?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. And sometimes it helps, to be honest with you. So we will see what happened in the ends but I think actually sometimes it helps. Sometimes it gets people to do what they are supposed to be doing.


BROWN: So here's the reality. Republicans have control of the White House as well as Congress as we know and they have yet to pass a single piece of major legislation.

Still, the President tweeted this, I agree, cutting -- getting tax cuts rather approved is important. We will also get health care but perhaps no administration has done more in its first nine months than this administration. He then points to his record on the second amendment, the military, ISIS and a record stock market among other things.

I want to bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez. He is live right outside the White House.

Boris, do lawmakers find this bickering helpful to get things done as the President suggests?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pamela. It's interesting. It's not something that many of them prefer, a lot of lawmakers including Republicans have been vocal about wishing that the President would put twitter away.

Just this week House speaker Paul Ryan during a roast partly mentioned the President's twitter has been its reiterating that idea. Though some Republicans have essentially defended what they call the President fighting back against criticism.

It's important that we distinguish though between the comments that have been made between President Trump and people like John McCain or Bob Corker and the all-out full blown no holds barred attacks that we have seen from Steve Bannon in recent weeks. Just about a week ago, he said the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was like Julius Caesar and he was working to find his Brutus. Several days later they held a joint press briefing, McConnell and Trump, here at the White House in which the President seemed to back McConnell.

Again, it's not something that many lawmakers prefer. We heard from Mitch McConnell earlier today on "STATE OF THE UNION" and he spoke with Dana Bash. Listen to some of what he said.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have been on the receiving end of several of those attacks. Do they help you get legislation through the Senate, sir?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Look, I'm not particularly concerned about all of this. What we are interested in is achieving an agenda for the American people and the President's agenda and our agenda are one in the same. We are thrilled to have somebody in the White House who supports what this House and Senate, Republican majority's been wanting to have an opportunity to do for a long time.


SANCHEZ: So Mitch McConnell not really fully fighting back there, deferring away from questions about GOP infighting and sticking to the script which is the agenda.

A side note, Pam. During that interview with Mitch McConnell he did say that President Trump doesn't get enough credit for how much he has accomplished, Pamela.

BROWN: Interesting. And as we know there was a phone call today on tax reform between the President and GOP lawmakers. What can you tell us about that?

SANCHEZ: Yes. The call took place this afternoon, a Republican source that was briefed on that phone call telling me that House speaker Paul Ryan told members that he wanted them to pass the Senate's budget with some modifications from the House this week because he said that was going to be their one shot to get tax reform passed before the end of the year.

President Trump and vice President Pence were also on the call. The President reiterating that idea to get the budget done right away this week, saying, quote "we are on the verge of something very, very historic." Pamela.

BROWN: Right. He said he wants it all done by Christmas. We will have to wait and see if that happens.

Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

And let's talk more about all of this, the GOP rift joining us now senior political writer for 538 Perry Bacon and Washington bureau chief of the "Chicago Sun-Times" Lynn Sweet.

All right, so hearing the President say that attacking and fighting, bickering with members of his own party might be helpful. I think that's a first. Correct me if I am wrong. Is there any world in which this is accurate? Lynn, you first.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Not to my recollection, Pamela. This is unprecedented. And I don't know if when he goes to this lunch tomorrow that kind of crack will help him when he actually tries to get the senators on board where they sing from the same book about tax reform or Obamacare.

One of the sticking points which some of the senators who I have talked to is that he seems to forget that they are independently elected members of a separate and equal branch of government. When he made that kind of crack, I have to whip these staffers into shape, here. And, you know, it just -- here's how we will know if it works. If he passes legislation that he ends up signing. Will have a way of knowing how the story ends?

In the meantime with all this heated rhetoric and name calling, it is going into a - he is going into the home turf of the Senate Republicans and it will be interesting if he can maneuver this without creating another cascade of controversy in the wake of this lunch.

[19:05:29] BROWN: Do you think he can do that, Perry?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVE THIRTYEIGHT: I'm sure he will say something in this lunch that irritates one of the senators because that's kind of how he behaves in public on twitter and so on. I do think on the tax issue itself, this is a great chance for the Republicans. Healthcare was really hard because with the healthcare bill you had the idea of someone's health care being taken away.

But I do think these next two months, Donald Trump seems to be very focus on tax reform. The members are not as divide on that as health care. So I do think this could be the big bill that Trump passes if he tries hard and focuses on it for the next two months.

BROWN: Right. Because he wants this legislative victory. He hasn't had one yet. This is something he wants.

Lynn, there's a "New York Times" article out today and it's tiled a Presidential bellwether is still waiting to start winning under Trump. A portion reads quote "he can't keep his mouth shot said Jim Hunter, an insurance agent who voted for Mr. Trump. He is berating his own party. He needs every Republican vote on taxes. I wish that all twitter stuff would all just stop. I don't even like to see him on TV." He added, "I would have serious reservations about voting for him again." Lynn, do you think this former Trump voter is among the minority or

the majority?

SWEET: Well, actually, I don't know. I know that there is a point perhaps where inciting, you know, chaos and uproar on twitter for President Trump is not to be confused with mapping out policy and building coalitions with Congress to get it passed.

And let me return to this other point because it is important. Bills are measurable. You have it. You sign it and you know when it's a major bill not a minor thing. President Trump in his comments and his twitter feed, he craves getting credit on a daily basis for all that he has done. But what he will still have to reckon with is how much left there is still to do.

BROWN: And there's a lot left.

Perry, President Trump has been crystal clear about who he'll blame for a stalled agenda. Listen to what he said this past week.


TRUMP: We are not getting the job done. And I'm not going to blame myself, I will be honest. They are not getting the job done.


BROWN: So do the President's feuds make it easier for him and in turn his voters to blame Congress more than the President?

PERRY: I mean, he has already been doing that. I mean, it's pretty clear he blamed healthcare on Mitch McConnell essentially. If tax reform does not pass, he is going to blame the senators as well and the house members as well. Steve Bannon is going out. And Trump is basically endorsed the idea that Steve Bannon should run candidates who blast the Republicans for not embracing Trump enough. So you can tell he's going to blame members of his party.

On the twitter comment, the guy from Indiana, once again I wanted to say is, Trump started out with about 46 percent approval. He is now down to about 38. So what that tells you is most of his base is still with him but losing eight points in a year is actually a pretty large amount of erosion and that does matter. It would be hard to win a reelection if you're at 38 percent approval.

BROWN: What is interesting, though, is that his behavior has been consistent since the campaign. So it makes you wonder if the gap is the people who really thought he would change once he was in the office and they are seeing that perhaps that's not changing. But as you point out he still has his base.

Lynn, I want to switch gears here and turn to the ambush in Niger and the controversy that has really engulf the White House this week. A former lawmaker Jason Chaffets tweeted today quote "Congress investigated Benghazi and extortion 17. Congress should also investigate the deadly attack in Niger, #truth." Do you think we will see that? Do you think we will see Benghazi investigation into Niger?

SWEET: Well, it might not raise the level of the Benghazi investigation which were in multiple committees stretching over years in Congress. But clearly, members of both parties want to know what happened. It's not clear yet. Their needs to be some kind of investigation.

What I don't know is how deeply it needs -- how long it will take to get out the facts with Benghazi. There is circumstances that were controversial because of the political show that went with it. Remember, what Susan Rice said or didn't say on a Sunday show about it.

In this case it might be a little more streamlined because for the first cut on this you just have to find what the troops were doing, what was the intelligence, what happened?

[19:10:16] BROWN: And on that note, Perry, Senator Lindsey Graham criticized President Trump and defended President Obama. Let's take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This all started when they criticized have he reached out the four fallen soldiers' families. Then he brings up President Obama which is absolutely the worst thing to do. There's no doubt in my mind that President Obama and Michelle Obama, their heart broke every time a soldier fell on their watch.


BROWN: You know, we often see these lawmakers communicate with Trump through TV interviews. Do they offer the same criticism in person you wonder? We know Graham recently golfed with Trump, Perry.

PERRY: Right. I will be curious to see tomorrow if the members in some way say, Mr. President, can you wind down on attacking Congresswoman Wilson? Can you, you know, focus on policy issues? Can you, you know, make sure in your future calls with widows of veterans, to say the right things, know their names? And that kind of things.

One other note here is the congressional black caucus has asked chief- of-staff Kelly to apologize for his comments about Congresswoman Wilson. I would be curious to see if Kelly abides by that or does that because his comments were inaccurate. But you know, Donald Trump never apologizes. So I will be curious to see if John Kelly apologizes.

BROWN: Go ahead.

SWEET: That's the one true thing to watch for because it's not just an apology. It's recognizing that chief-of-staff Kelly made -- ended up naming -- making a false statement when he talked about very critically what Congresswoman Wilson said at the dedication of an FBI building in her district. So let's see if he corrects the record. He is not President Trump. He has never been seen as somebody who

couldn't fix a mistake if he made it inadvertently and just one other thing about what may happen at that lunch. I don't think it's a matter of just what they may tell the President to do in the future, it will be, call back this widow. Make it right. Just -- if you said something wrong, just try to say something right.

Obviously, this is going to be difficult, but I would not be surprised if this is a topic of discussion that you treat people and families with as much compassion as you can and even sometimes when you think you are doing it right, it doesn't come out that way. And we all know in our personal lives, Pamela and Perry, how sometimes we say things that we think is heartfelt and right and it just comes out the wrong way and you just want to make it right and that's what people do.

BROWN: Yes. No doubt. No matter, you know, it's a difficult phone call to make.

Perry, Lynn, you will be back with me in just a moment. So we will see you soon.

And coming up, new reports that the President has pledged to pay the legal bills of White House staffers caught up in the Russia probe. Is it a conflict?

Plus, the President speaking out about whether he has been asked to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller.


[19:17:16] BROWN: Welcome back.

President Trump revealing in a brand-new interview that he hasn't been asked to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe. He told FOX Business News quote "I don't know and nobody has asked me to do that. There has -- there is no collusion I can tell you that. Everybody seen that, you know. You have Senate meetings, you have Senate hearings and nobody has asked us to do interviews anywhere they have found no collusion."

Now sources previously told CNN, Mueller hopes to wrap up interviewing the first group of White House officials by the end of this month.

Joining me now to discuss all of this CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, Perry Bacon back with us and Lynn Sweet. All here to discuss this. A lot to sort of take in, understand.

Paul, first to you. I want to talk about this new reporting that the President has pledged, personally pledged almost half a million dollars of his own money to cover the legal fees of some of his staffers now wrapped up in the Russia probe. But there are some who are concerned that this could be a conflict of interest.

Walter Schabb actually tweeted. Of course, he is the former director of the office government ethics. He tweeted, a potential witness or target of an investigation, and boss of investigators paying for legal fees of other potential witnesses or targets?

So basically implying that this could be problematic because it could taint the interviews with Mueller. What do you think?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, I think it creates a really balanced appearance. The optics here are terrible. But I can tell you from a legal standpoint there have been rulings previously that a third party like the President can pick up expenses for witnesses being interviewed --

BROWN: Even if the third party is also part of the investigation?

CALLAN: Yes. It's technically legal. And remember, the President has stated that he has never been named as a target of the investigation. Now, if on the other hand Mueller had said the President is the target and then the President started paying for legal expenses -- this came up during Watergate, by the way, great stuff with John Dean saying to Nixon, we could pay for the expenses of the Watergate burglars but if we did it would make us look really bad. And they were talking about raising the money to pay the burglars and eventually they backed off. John Dean was fired along with all of Nixon's top aids.

Now, we are not at that point in this investigation. So, from what I'm seeing now, it's perfectly legal for him to pick up the expenses of his staff members. Usually, people set up independent fund-raising legal expense committees to raise money for this. This is very unusual for a President to do this.

BROWN: Well, I mean, these are -- some of these are lower level White House staffers who are going to have, you know, what, six digit legal bills, potentially. I mean, it is --.

CALLAN: Well, one of them said I don't think I will be able to send my kids to college having to pay these bills which is why a lot of people in this situation would set up a legal defense fund for the people who work for the President. And then he gets - he is independent of it. And it doesn't have this bad look that it's going to have if he is paying for people being interviewed about his conduct.

[19:20:16] BROWN: You are seeing now these interviews taking place between Robert Mueller's teams and those who have worked in the White House, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, former chief-of-staff, do you see this eventually getting to the President. And if so, do you think it will be wise for the President to submit to an interview with Robert Mueller?

CALLAN: I do see it getting very close to the President. But I have my doubts that the President himself will ever be interviewed. I mean, the special counsel is moving in a circle. Now, he is on the outer perimeter of White House insiders, the ones who were there before and have now left. He will certainly get very close to the President. But for him to actually interview the President himself would be extremely unusual.

BROWN: It would be.

CALLAN: Arch Cox (ph) never interviewed Nixon. He could compel an interview by serving a subpoena on the President. He has the right to interview the President. But it would be very, very unusual.

BROWN: But I think if he didn't, if he had -- then people would say, well, the obstruction of justice case is ongoing. Don't you need to interview the President if he's part of that, you know? But on the other hand, I have spoken to people close to him who have said they would advise against it. You saw what happened in the Bill Clinton case.


BROWN: So we will have to see what happens there.

And Lynn I want to bring you in because the President took this shot on twitter writing, workers affirm involve with the discredit and fake dossier take the fifth. Who paid for it? Russia, the FBI or the DEMs.

So the President clearly, Lynn, suggesting that the FBI and the Democrats were conspiring to make collusion case which is sort of outrageous to think the FBI would be colluding with Democrats. But what is interesting here is that an anti-Trump Republican initially funded the dossier, so this doesn't really add up.

SWEET: Well. And this is a company based in Washington, D.C. that was founded by former journalists. I think that tweet was just an effort to throw people off the scent and confuse people. And to your point when you said he says there's no collusion in a tweet. President Trump isn't in a position to know that because there could be collusion with actors other than himself. So the fact that he has or has not been interviewed is not determinative of any conclusion that Bob Mueller might be making based on actions taken by different people involved in the Trump campaign.

BROWN: And no doubt about it, Perry, I mean, this is just a cloud he wants lifted off the White House for understandable reasons, you know. But the Senate Intel committee came out recently and said, look, we are still investigating collusion. Something that the President is not happy with clearly.

PERRY: Right. Also the idea there was a meeting with a Russian lawyer where Donald Jr. attended with the top campaign staff, they were looking for dirt about Hillary Clinton. So the idea there's no collusion, I think we're really questioning about what is the depth of the collusion. How much it was and how severe it was? So I don't think Donald Trump has been a very reliable narrator of this investigation derail. I don't think he will be in the future either.

BROWN: Right. And then the question is, Paul, if there is collusion, what's the legal ramification, you know.

Let me just ask you this because the President says the dossier has been discredit. Some parts though have actually borne out or actually true. Over the summer, we reported that Robert Mueller's team traveled to London to interview Christopher Steel. If they thought this dossier was all fabricated they probably wouldn't be traveling over there to interview the author of it. What do you think?

CALLAN: Yes. The present statement is really bizarre in this respect because, yes, the dossier, which was produced by British intelligence has never been confirmed but that doesn't mean --


BROWN: Any intelligence reports there are some truths, untruths --

CALLAN: Well, sometimes you can corroborate and sometimes you can't. But just because you can't corroborate it, doesn't mean that it's not true. Somebody can go out in the middle of the forest and commit a crime with no witnesses. And then when he comes back, there's no corroborations. So can you say he didn't commit the crime? No. The crime was committed. But we haven't corroborated it and we don't know what Mueller is doing.

We do know that Mueller has reached out and is looking at this dossier. So Mueller obviously thinks there must be some chestnuts there that haven't been properly investigated to determine whether they can be corroborated. So it's an utter falsehood to say that somebody has said nothing in the dossier is true. That's not true at all and it's an inaccurate statement by the President.

BROWN: Right. What do you think he was looking for, though, with Christopher Steel?

CALLAN: Well, what I think he is looking to do, of course, is completely discredit Steel because the reports are that that dossier is very, very harmful to the President. And forgetting about Mueller, some of the salacious things that come up in it, Steel predicted the meeting that the Russian lawyer had with the Trump children and others a year before it occurred. He makes reference to the fact that the Russians had information on Hillary Clinton that they were going to feed to the Trump campaign. And we know now that there was such a meeting that occurred in the Trump tower. So you would have to say how did Christopher steel know that if everything he says in the dossier is false? I would like to know the answer. And I think a lot of other people would.

BROWN: Fair point.

All right. Paul Callan, Perry, Lynn, thank you. Appreciate it.

SWEET: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: Well, in the wake of new revelations about Bill O'Reilly and a jaw-dropping $32 million sexual harassment lawsuit, CNN's Brian Stelter talked to former FOX News anchor Gretchen Carlson about how her own lawsuit against Roger Ailes set off a domino effect that toppled some of the most powerful men in media. That story up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:30:16] BROWN: Well, the woman who arguably prompted a see change in how FOX News handles sexual harassment allegations says she is horrified that FOX allowed Bill O'Reilly back on television after he agreed to settle a harassment claim for $32 million.

Former FOX host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against former FOX News chief Roger Ailes that ultimately led to his ouster. But she is not staying silent on her effort to stop what she calls an epidemic of sexual harassment on the workplace.

Carlson spoke to CNN's own Brian Stelter earlier today.


GRETCHEN CARLSON, FORMER ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Brian, I think it's horrifying and outrageous that any company after dismissing somebody for allegations such as that would not only re-sign a contract but allow that person to come back on the air. It's outrageous and it's one of the reasons that I wanted to make sure that I chronicled so much other women's story in my book because now we are on a movement. We are on a movement to speak up and be heard. And there's no turning back for women in the workplace. Why should women have the American dream taken away from them? We work just as hard as anyone else and it's time that it stops.


BROWN: And Brian Stelter joins me now.

So it's clear that Gretchen wants to remain vocal even though she had her own settlement with FOX News. She is very passionate about this.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She tiptoes up to that the edge of that nondisclosure agreement that she has. She is not allowed to talk about what happened with her at FOX, the alleged harassment at the hands of Roger Ailes who was the boss there.

That was 15 months ago that she sued and then reached that settlement. And you can think about the dramatic changes we have seen in the U.S. around the conversation about these topics ever since whether it's the Weinstein scandal or it's about Bill O'Reilly. So, you know, she happens to have this new book out. She is promoting efforts for women to speak up and regain their power in the workplace in these situations.

But I think it's notable with the Bill O'Reilly story this weekend, this $32 million settlement that we have learned about. She is saying that it's disturbing that FOX brought him back on the air last month, you know. O'Reilly was welcomed back by Sean Hannity for an interview last month. And she is saying that that seems disturbing to go her.

BROWN: And what do you think now after this $32 million settlement that we are learning bout now, do you think he will be back on FOX either as a guest or on, you know -- what's the future hold for him now? STELTER: No. Short answer is no. The long answer is, FOX isn't

going to rule it out. But I cannot imagine seeing O'Reilly back on FOX as a guest. He has been seeking a TV job elsewhere, though. He has been seeking a TV job maybe one of these smaller channels who is trying to rival FOX. I think the odds of that are now lower as a result of the settlement that has been revealed. Remember, the settlement was in January but it wasn't revealed until this weekend in the "New York Times."

BROWN: And what's interesting was that his spokesman came out this is all in an effort to hurt his chances in the marketplace. But yet he didn't point out that any of it was actually untrue.


BROWN: I mean, the fact that he did settle with $32 million with the former FOX legal analyst is true, right, then his contract was re- signed.

STELTER: That's right. And that number was confirmed to me by sources as well. It was always be a mystery about why he was willing to pay so much money to this woman to stop a lawsuit.

BROWN: That's a lot of money, $32 million.

I want to get to Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren and the fact that she is joining the chorus of high profile women who are now sharing their, you know, #metoo stories. Let's take a listen to what she said about her own experience of sexual harassment.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I was a baby law professor and so excited to have my first real teaching job. And there was this senior faculty member who, you know, would tell dirty jokes and make comments about my appearance. And one day he asked me if I would stop by his office, which I didn't think much about and I did. And he slammed the door and lunged for me. It was like a bad cartoon. He was chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on me and I kept saying, you don't want to do this. You don't want to do this. I have little children at home.


BROWN: So how do you think the senator's own personal story there of sexual harassment will sort of impact the national conversation?

STELTER: Yes. She and several of her Democratic colleague in the Senate share these stories over the weekend. And it's the latest example as you said of this me too movement expressing personal stories of harassment. Another improper behavior.

I am blown away by how quickly we have seen this spread in all these different fields whether it's the political world or the fashion industry or the restaurant business. It's not just Hollywood even though there are real problems in Hollywood be on Harvey Weinstein. We are seeing this all over the country in various professions.

[19:35:01] BROWN: People coming out of the woodworks now I guess they feeling sort of emboldened with this movement.

STELTER: Yes. And willing to speak On the Record in many cases. You think about the Weinstein effect just in the past few days. The head of Amazon studios making TV shows resigned in the wake of harassment allegations. You see over at VOX media, senior executive pushed out in the harassment allegations.

Over the weekend there's new claims against a restaurant to our in New Orleans. Women going on the record against him.

Also this weekend in the "L.A. Times." a director in L.A. who has made dozens of movies allegations against him. These are often times On the Record so in some cases we have seen resignations or firings. In other cases we have seen apologies. I even noticed on Facebook a prominent tech executive this weekend coming out and saying sorry after women spoke up about mistreatment that women experienced at his hands.

So we are seeing this all these different fields something that just 15 months ago sort of started with Gretchen Carlson in suing Roger Ailes. You could also trace this back in some ways to Bill Cosby and the allegations against him. But really, it's been the past 15 months between the Roger Ailes story, the allegations against Donald Trump before election day, the Bill O'Reilly scandal.

BROWN: Let me - why do you think Donald Trump - I mean, that has been raised. There have been allegations against him but that doesn't seem to have sort of picked up speed the same --.

STELTER: And there's an excellent story in "the Washington Post" this weekend about how some of the accusers against Trump feel. Some of those accusers feel confused and disappointed that there wasn't justice. That they feel there wasn't justice in that case.

I think a lot of this conversation whether it's Elizabeth Warren, whether its Gretchen Carlson, a lot of it actually is a reaction to the Trump presidency and to the "Acess Hollywood" tape. And to the feeling that in spite of all the knowledge of all those allegations against Trump, he was still elected.

I think we see whether it's Democratic senator whether it's women speaking out on twitter or Facebook. They feel empower to talk about this in light of the Trump presidency in some ways.

BROWN: All right. Well, great conversation, Brian. Thank you so much.

And coming up on this Sunday, the President pushed for it to be written, praised and abruptly said he was against it. The latest on the fight over a bipartisan healthcare bill.

We will be right back.


[19:41:09] BROWN: Well, nothing is ever easy on Capitol Hill. That is especially true when the President can't seem to make up his mind about something that would impact millions of Americans. A bipartisan deal on healthcare.


TRUMP: 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.

This is a short-term deal because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answers. The solution will be about a year or two years and it will get us over this intermediate hump.

We are going to see the bipartisan and Lamar Alexander is working on it very hard from our side. And if something can happen that's fine, but I won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies.


BROWN: So that was a taste of the conflicting statements from the President on whether he was for or against a deal broker by Republican senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic senator Patty Murray to stabilize the Obamacare market place.

Joining me now is a supporter of the Alexander-Murray deal, Democratic governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

Governor, thank you so much for coming on.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: You bet, my pleasure.

BROWN: First off, just tell me why this deal is so important to your state?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think it's important to every state. I mean, the private market is really a small population, it's like seven percent of our people. But that's, you know, for us, it could affect 400,000 to 600,000 people. And this is certainly not a give back or any way enriching insurance companies. If we don't have this, a bunch of the insurance companies just leave the market. So who really gets hurt are those people that are kind of low wage earners who really can't just quite afford insurance on their own and yet their business or their work doesn't give them coverage.

BROWN: Why do you think the President has been so wobbly on this, first saying OK, and then backtracking from that?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think the politics are tough for everybody, right? At a certain point the Republicans really -- they don't want to give an inch. They don't want to have a solution. But on the other hand this matters to millions of Americans. So they almost have to figure out - I mean, I agreed with his short-term solution, which, you know, he was saying this is just going to be for a couple years. Well, he is right. This would be for a couple years and allow us to begin finding out how are we going to save money. How are we going not rollback coverage but find ways that we can keep those people covered at a high quality and not keeping having the medical inflation we have had. We can get there but this is the first step. It's just -- it's a foundation to making a health care system that works.

BROWN: And you say Republicans don't want to give an inch. But senator minority leader Chuck Schumer was asked this morning about the negotiations and here's what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are Democrats done negotiating?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: We have a very good deal. McConnell should put it on the floor. It will pass overwhelmingly. If Ryan puts it on the floor, it'll pass. The house overwhelming --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you didn't answer if you're done? Are you still willing to talk?

SCHUMER: We are. We have an agreement. We want to stick by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that. Are you willing to talk or no?

SCHUMER: We are sticking to the agreement we have. Put it on the floor. See if it fails.


BROWN: So it seems like Democrats don't really want to give an inch either there, governor?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, he didn't say he wouldn't talk. He was just obviously frustrated that they worked so hard to get to a compromise that they thought everyone could work with.

The key here, I think they've covered almost all the, you know, the most difficult issues and if there's some little, you know, some other compromise that needs to happen maybe it can be done. But it sounded to me like an awful lot of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate have come around and said, this is a product we can support. So it seems to me if we have gotten to that point it makes sense for the Senate President McConnell to put it on, let it go to the floor and then I think the President, you know, needs to take a hard look and really -- I think he needs to sign it.

[19:45:12] BROWN: And Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said that he is willing to bring the healthcare legislation up for a vote, but he also said he needs a clear signal from the President. Listen to this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: What I'm waiting is to hear from President Trump what kind of healthcare bill he might sign. If there's a need for some kind of interim step here to stabilize the market, we need a bill the President will actually sign. And I'm not certain yet what the President's looking for here. But I will be happy to bring a bill to the floor but I know President Trump would sign it.


BROWN: So McConnell doesn't know what kind of bill the President would sign. We have a new CNN poll that shows 63 percent of Americans believe it is unlikely Trump and Congress will make progress on healthcare reform. I mean, I have to ask you, are you also genuinely worried?

HICKENLOOPER: Yes, I'm worried. I'm a governor. All governors are by almost by necessity we are optimists. And I look at it -- I think President Trump's biggest fears is that somehow in some way this might enrich insurance companies. I think it's fairly easy to demonstrate to them of all the money they have made in the last six or eight years that this private market pool has been their worst -- their worst profit maker. In other words, these cost sharing reductions, which really -- if you don't have them then the individuals in the market get tax credits. So this doesn't cost any more money to the federal government and it doesn't enrich insurance companies. We have to figure out some way to convince the President. But this as a step to getting to a stronger healthcare system. This really does make a lot of sense.

BROWN: Governor, we have 30 seconds left. You have been vocal about ending, you know, partisanship, getting Democrats or Republicans in the same room on this issue. If nothing changes, though, might that inspire you to run for higher office in 2020?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, at this point, you know, the more I can stay focused on this issue and all the stuff we are doing here in Colorado, the higher the probability that we will finally get some bipartisanship. As soon as I start talking about higher ambitions then all kinds of different self-interests and distractions get involved.

BROWN: All right, governor. Governor, Hickenlooper, thank you so much.


BROWN: And coming up on this Sunday, the smash hit "Despacito" made a Puerto Rico neighborhood famous but hurricane Maria left it destroyed. A look at the still desperate conditions on the ground one month after the storm.


[19:52:15] BROWN: Well, it has been more than a month now since hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. But for many residents there, it seems as though the storm hit just yesterday with almost 80 percent of the island still without power and clean water hard to come by for one in four residents there. Among the areas affected, a neighborhood featured in the music video for one of the biggest songs in the world.

CNN's Bill Weir has the story.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the most popular music video ever. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" has been viewed on You Tube over four billion times.

But most of that massive audience probably didn't realize the video was shot in one of the most notorious neighborhoods in all of Puerto Rico.

Welcome to La Perla. For years this place was written off as being drugged and gang, infested, community organizers fought against that stigma, hadn't been a murder here in six years. And then came "Despacito." And suddenly, this rough side of town was a tourist destination and economy started to blow up. People felt good about themselves, but then came Maria.

Now, you got an outbreak of conjunctivitis among the children. A clinic is without power. There is no roof on the school. And there is no hope that help is coming any time soon.

Tourists wanted to come here, Yashita tells me. They came from Africa, China, South America. But after Maria, nobody comes. It is like a ghost town.

The excited scram from a single bag of ice is proof that potable water and power are still illusive luxuries over a month after Maria. Which puts pressure on the men paid to electrify Puerto Rico.

They are journeymen linemen contracted by White Fish Energy, a small two-year-old company out of Montana. Raised a lot of eyebrows when they were given a $300 million contract without any input from the army corps of engineers.

You know the headline down here for a couple days was how the hell did you get this contract? You are a brand new company reason, right?

ANDREW TECHMANSKI, CEO, WHITEFISH ENERGY HOLDINGS: We have been around for a few years. And, you know, we specialize in difficult and mountainous terrain projects. So all I can say, we took the call and we are here.

WEIR: How long before juice is flowing through here?

TECHMANSKI: That's a good question. We hope to have this line back up in the next three to four days.

WEIR: The governor is promising 95 percent power back by Christmas.


WEIR: Is that reasonable? It that fantasy?

TECHMANSKI: It's going to take a lot of people to reach that deadline.


WEIR: You are welcome.

So it is anyone's guess as to when they will have the lights back on in La Perla. Until then, there is little to do but take care of each other. The kids with no school, the elderly with no hospital, and they clean up just in case the tourists ever decide to come back.


[19:55:21] BROWN: And our thanks to Bill Weir reporting there in Puerto Rico.

For more information on how you can help the victims of the recent hurricanes, all you have to do is log on to

And we will be right back.


[19:59:49] BROWN: We are live at the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Pamela Brown in for Ana Cabrera. Great to have you along with us on this Sunday evening.

Well, President Trump is publicly speaking out about the investigation into Russia's election meddling. In a brand new interview, President Trump says, no one has asked him to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller. And this comes as sources tells CNN Mueller hopes to wrap up his approach around --.