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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump and Abe React to North Korean Missile Launch; North Korea Test-Fires Ballistic Missile; U.S. Immigration Authorities Arrest Hundreds; Mexico Tries to Aid Its Citizens in the U.S.; GOP Face Anger Over Obamacare at Town Halls; Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 12, 2017 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:10] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: It is 3:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world. We're following the breaking news this hour out of North Korea. I'm George Howell.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Paula Newton. Another ballistic missile test has taken place in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Now North Korea has launched dozens of missiles in the past, but this is the first time since Donald Trump became U.S. president.

HOWELL: The timing here is notable. The president is hosting the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a state visit at his Florida resort.

North Korean missiles, they pose a direct threat to Japan and South Korea. Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump were briefed on that situation then appeared together to issue a joint statement condemning the test. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (Through Translator): North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. During this summit meeting that I had with President Trump, he assured me that the United States will always with Japan 100 percent. And to demonstrate his determination as well as commitment, he is now here with me at this joint press conference.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: A very brief remark there from the U.S. president, Donald Trump.

CNN's Athena Jones has more now, though, on the White House reaction. ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. That's right. We did

hear brief statements from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and an even briefer statement, I should say, from President Trump here tonight at Mar-a-Lago, the president's estate here in Palm Beach.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, saying that North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable, saying North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.

That second line there is an echo of a line from the joint statement put out by the U.S. and Japan after the two leaders, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump, had their first official meeting at the White House.

In that statement they urged North Korea not to make any further provocative actions or not to take any further actions and they talked about the need for it to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. So you heard the prime minister echoing that call tonight.

He also said that during the summit with President Trump, Trump assured him that the United States will always come to Japan's defense and said that the president and he completely share the view that we are going to promote further cooperation between the two nations and also we are going to further reinforce our alliance.

After the prime minister spoke, President Trump took to the podium and delivered a very brief statement saying, thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. I just want everyone -- everybody to understand and fully know that the United Nations of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.

Now I can't stress enough that that is a statement that does not at all address what happened. It does not address the fact that North Korea launched this missile. It was a cautious statement, dare I say, a timid statement. Not the kind of language that we heard from candidate Trump or president-elect Trump. A clear signal that the White House is responding, very, very cautiously to this. Its first real national security test. Now barely -- not even a month in to the presidency.

So that is the statements we're getting so far from the White House and the Japanese prime minister in response to this latest provocation from North Korean. And I should mention this is something that North Korea likes to do. They like to test new administrations. They fired -- they fired off their second nuclear test early in President Obama's first term. And their third one, just a month into his second term. So this is not something that was not predictable.

In fact, U.S. intelligence picked up on movements in the past month or so that indicated this could be coming. And yet we get a very, very brief statement from President Trump. A bit of a longer one from Prime Minister Abe in this first response to a missile launch. Back to you.

HOWELL: Athena Jones, thank you.

For more now on North Korea's missile launch, we're joined by Matt Rivers live this hour this hour, following the story.

[03:05:02] Matt, so what more are you hearing from Seoul, South Korea.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're hearing from Defense officials here in South Korea is that this is the kind of test that that they have seen many, many times before, frankly. This isn't the test that many people were expecting given what we had heard from the Kim Jong-un in his New Year's Day address where he talked of North Korea taking the final steps necessary to be able to test a long-range missile, the kind of ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile that could be capable of hitting the United States.

That is the test that a lot of the international community was kind of watching and waiting for. Especially because, as you heard Athena just say there, we know that Pyongyang likes to test new administrations to remind new administrations that North Korea is here and is ready to be taken seriously.

And so the ICBM was definitely a real threat. So initially when this test first came out we were waiting for clarification from Defense officials as to what kind of test it was. But it turns out that this is just an intermediate range missile that has been tested for a long time now even since the 1990s.

And so a bit of sigh of relief there. But most experts will tell you that if not now, it's going to happen at some point. North Korea will at some point attempt to test an ICBM. The question is, how soon will they be technologically capable of doing that.

NEWTON: Matt, I'm interested to hear from you. I mean, as you said, this wasn't the kind of missile launch that they were looking towards and yet it is entirely predictable. Everyone thought that when President Trump was inaugurated they were waiting for this kind of provocation, let's call it, from North Korea. What is the mood, though, in South Korea about all this right now?

RIVERS: Well, I think that on the one hand when it comes to North Korea, South Koreans are always very wary. But this test is something they've seen before. There were two dozen such tests in 2016 alone. So they're very used to it here.

The real sense of nervousness came from when candidate Trump talked about, is the U.S. willing or should the U.S. be willing to pull back from some of these strong military alliances between South Korea and the United States, and even Japan and the United States, that have been built up over the last several decades.

But hearing President Trump come out unequivocally support Japan, and then with that trip that Secretary of Defense James Mattis took here to South Korea very recently, unequivocally stating the United States supports South Korea in its efforts to push back against the North Korean regime, I think there is also a general sense of relief among South Korean officials that the United States isn't going anywhere and that it is willing to work with the South Korean government as it continually attempts to tackle the continued provocations from North Korea.

HOWELL: Matt Rivers live for us in Seoul, South Korea, following this story. Matt, thank you for the reporting and the context on this. We'll stay in touch with you.

U.S. and South Korean officials believe North Korean test was either medium range intermediate range ballistic missile. So it traveled just over 300 miles. Take a look here at this map. 500 kilometers, which is represented by the number one red line.

NEWTON: North Korea has missiles that can reach -- and I want you pay special attention to that graph and why it makes people in the region so jittery. They have missiles that can reach as far as line three. And it's striving for an intercontinental missile, as you just heard Matt describe, that can reach lines four and five. All of this, this graphic, this map very important here. And what we want to know is do Pyongyang's missile advances pose a genuine threat to even the west coast of the United States?

We want to ask our next guest, Victor Gao is the director of the China National Association of International Studies and he joins me now live from Beijing. And important vantage point to be sure. In terms of the reaction there, again, fairly predictable that they would do something like this. What are they really waiting for in terms of a reaction? Is it more waiting to see what the U.S. reaction would be to this?

VICTOR GAO, DIRECTOR, CHINA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I would say, DPRK's testing of the missile this time is another violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution. And China, together with all the other major stake holders, would condemn this violation. From the Chinese perspective, China is joining in full steam the sanctions imposed on DPRK by the United Nations Security Council. And I don't think China will spare any efforts in continuing and implementing the sanctions against DPRK.

I think this testing again is an escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula would even has the risk of triggering further escalation on the Korean peninsula. And I think it's time for China together with the United States and other major stake holders to call on DPRK to discontinue the nuclear weapon testing as well as the launch vehicle testing. And really come down to the negotiation table, the six-party talk framework.

[03:10:10] And I think it's also time to use all the wisdom and courage and vision available to all the stake holders here, try to bring about a complete discontinuation of the nuclear weapon and testing launch vehicle program by DPRK.

NEWTON: Mr. Gao, President Trump has been quite categorical saying before in a tweet that he did not think that China was being helpful enough with North Korea. Do you think China's posture will change given that they did have a phone call the other day. And that relation seemed to be back on track. GAO: I think President Trump's phone call with Chinese President Xi

Jinping is a very important landmark milestone event in China-U.S. relations especially acknowledging once again the "One China: policy, which by the Chinese standard is the red line and is the bottom line. And China will not be able to negotiate or talk with the United States in any way about the "One China" policy.

On DPRK's nuclear weapon program, issue, China is together with the United States. Is joining the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Urging and demanding for the discontinuation of the nuclear testing program by DPRK. So I think there will be possibility for China and the United States to eventually talk with each other and engage in certain kinds of discussions.

I think fundamentally from the Chinese perspective. We need to create a situation where the nuclear weapon will be removed from DPRK and from the Korean Peninsula. But on the other hand the fundamental concerns on the government of DPRK about its own survival, should also be well taken of. This is why I we need greater wisdom, and vision, and, courage in dealing with this very, very difficult and dangerous situation on the Korean peninsula.

NEWTON: Yes. And Mr. Gao, as you mentioned, some experts have said that in fact North Korea may extend a hand if they can work in concert along these issues right now.

Mr. Gao, with your vantage point from Beijing, appreciate it.

HOWELL: For more analysis on North Korea, let's bring in Jim Walsh, a senior research associate at MIT, joining us now from Cambridge, Massachusetts, via Skype.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jim, first of all, your reaction to what happened here?

JIM WALSH, SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, MIT: Well, part of this is sort of set piece theater. You know, we're going to have the Japanese prime minister and the South Korea temporary president, and President Trump all come out and say this is unacceptable and this is terrible. And you know, we'll pursue tougher measures. And there'll probably be a U.N. resolution at some point.

But if we sort of step back from all of that which is, you know, set theater, as I say. What strikes me about it is North Koreans test, they test a missile, it's not a test of an ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile, like they threatened to do. This strikes me, and based on what I know about friends having conversations with North Koreans as pushing a little bit. But not too much. And sort of waiting to see what President Trump will do. So I think we have a bit of tactical play here by the North Koreans.

HOWELL: So you describe this as set theater. North Korea pushing. Just to see how for North Korea can push and. We are hearing the statement from the president of the United States. That the U.S. supports Japan 100 percent. So this is really the president's first time to face such an international test.

WALSH: Yes, but you do remember there is a period before, after the election before inauguration, where I think quite on bad advice came out and said we're never going to allow, you know, North Korea to test. It sort of seemed to set up a red line. Then his staff sort of backed away from that. But I think it would be wiser for him not set up red lines that he cannot enforce.

I think the North Koreans frankly, you know, are somewhat -- like many countries in the world, they're not sure how to react here. So they're sort of pushing along a little built. So they're being provocative. As is classically North Korean. They're being provocative. But they're not being too provocative such that it would set off a crisis. And so I think -- I think both sides are feeling each other out. Neither side wants to put itself in a position where this automatically leads to some sort of ugly escalation.

HOWELL: Let's talk about South Korea. That nation, obviously in a tricky sport as well. Its president has been impeached waiting for the courts to make a final decision there.

[03:15:02] So all of this happening at a time where South Korea is in ate very different position than, it might have been in earlier years.

WALSH: Yes, I agree. And what makes -- I'm glad you asked that question. You are absolutely right to put your finger on that. Some folks had speculated that North Korea would not carry out this test until -- North Korea would not carry out the test until South Korea, had sort of chosen its new leader. The idea being North Korea didn't want to, you know, roil the waters in the middle of the South Koreans making their new choices.

But apparently so, what did we learn from this? One thing we learned from this was North Koreans, sort of cautious in a North Korean sort of way. Second thing we learned is that the North Koreans apparently felt it was more important to sort of press the U.S., test the U.S. in a modest way. And not really worry about what impact that would have on South Korea's elections.

So that tells me, they're more worried about the U.S. than South Korea. And you know, I agree with you. Any time you have, you know, leadership that's up for grabs, that's sort of a dicey moment. But I think the South Koreans aren't looking to start a war here. I think they're going to go through their own domestic political process. They'll select -- you know, they'll get some -- there will be an end to this nightmare that they have. And then everyone is going to sit down and try to figure out what happens now because we're in this brave new world.

New leadership in the U.S., new leadership in South Korea, and relatively young leadership in a provocative North Korea. That's when the game will really begin.

HOWELL: And again that was Jim Walsh of MIT. And Jim, of course, we thank you for being with us. And, Paula, you know again, so this was not an ICBM but at the same

time the president's -- the U.S. president's first test, you know, on the international stage.

NEWTON: Yes. And he said so very little as we heard from that statement. The little that we did hear. And it seems like while he realizes that perhaps North Korea is the main test here, containment is still going to be the goal.

HOWELL: Big story. Of course we'll continue to follow.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, hundreds of people arrested in cities across the United States. Why immigrants are living in fear this day of a knock on the door?

NEWTON: Plus we'll see how the Mexican government is trying to come to the aid of its nationals on the other side of the border. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:21:01] HOWELL: Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. Recapping our breaking news this hour. North Korea has test-fired another ballistic missile. Sources report that it was launched from that nation's north. The missile traveled a little more than 300 miles, some 500 kilometers. And it landed in the Sea of Japan, is also known as the East Sea. A U.S. military spokesman says it was either a medium or intermediate range ballistic missile.

NEWTON: Now this latest provocation from Pyongyang has been condemned by both South Korea and Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it absolutely intolerable. He was speaking, of course, alongside U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida. Mr. Trump added that the U.S. backed Japan, quote, "100 percent."

HOWELL: It was notable to see these two together when this happened.

Other news we're following, of course, this day protesters showed up outside the White House on Saturday denouncing a wave of arrests by immigration officials.

Authorities have arrested undocumented immigrants in 12 states from coast to coast.

NEWTON: Now the latest raids have taken in more than 200 foreign nationals in the Midwest. Now officials saying most of the people they locked up have already been convicted of crimes.

We want to hear more, though, now from our Rafael Romo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Detentions over the last week are in the hundreds and have been across the country especially in states with higher concentrations of immigrants. In California alone, officials say they detained 160 individuals. According to authorities 150 of the detainees had criminal histories and the rest were in deportation proceedings for other reasons.

Activists say the raids have terrorized immigrant populations and caused widespread fear in these and other states. But Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says raids are in compliance with the law and not just random operations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: First of all they're not rounding anyone up. The people that ICE apprehend are people who are illegal and then some. ICE is executing the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMO: A labor union representing a school district in Texas has published a flier that tells immigrants what to do in case immigration authorities come knocking on their doors. A union spokeswoman calls the raids a crisis and says providing this information is important to students and parents at the school district. A local official reacted with indignation to the raids.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have heard of several confirmed ICE actions in Austin. We are here to denounce those actions and to let the community know that we have their backs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMO: Immigration and Customs Enforcement published a statement about the raids saying the following. "The rash of recent reports about purported ICE checkpoints and random sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible. These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in an unnecessary danger. Individuals who falsely report such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support."

President Donald Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a central focus of his presidential campaign.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Rafael, thank you.

Given the arrests and raids there is a great deal of anxiety among innocent people who came to the United States hoping to find a better life.

NEWTON: Yes. Lots of anxiety to this country right now and Mexico's government is trying to help its nationals however way it can.

Polo Sandoval shows us how they're reaching out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You wouldn't know it if you drove by this Tucson, Arizona, building that bears the Mexican seal, but inside is a small army of call takers. This is more than just a phone bank. It's a clearinghouse for Mexicans run by the Mexican government. It's called the CIAM or the Center for Information and Assistance for Mexicans. It's the only one in the U.S.

PATRICIA AHUMADA, CALL CENTER OPERATOR: We also explain all the consular services that we offer.

SANDOVAL: These days, Patricia Ahumada says people are concerned about more than just basic services.

[03:25:03] AHUMADA: It can be really tough for us as well. Because every story, every call is another story. And I can have a call that can be about a passport, but I can also have a call saying that happened if my kids are U.S. citizens and I have to go back to Mexico.

RICARDO PINEDA ALBARRAN, CONSUL OF MEXICO, TUCSON, ARIZONA: The need is high. That's why we have around 40 people working over here.

SANDOVAL: Counsel General Ricardo Pineda who leads this team noticed a recent 100 percent increase in call traffic. The center received an average of 700 calls a day before Donald Trump was sworn in. Today nearly 1300, according to Pineda who thinks more of his fellow Mexicans want answers about President Trump's immigration orders. He says many of the calls come from undocumented Mexicans with the new fear of dealing with U.S. immigration authorities. They fear deportation.

ALBARRAN: What we are trying to do is referring over the communicate to professionals, to newly authorized attorneys, right here or in many locations around the U.S. that can provide information. We are doing that and we're going to continue to do that on a more intensive manner.

SANDOVAL: Pineda echoes a new message from his Foreign Ministry's office warning Mexican citizens in the U.S. to take precautions. The advice vice coming as hundreds of undocumented immigrants are being arrested in several states. The Mexican government foresees more severe immigration measures to be implemented with possible violations to constitutional precepts. Pineda says those concerns have prompted them to keep their lines open 24/7.

ALBARRAN: Call your consulate. Please come to the consulate. It's our duty to get along with you, to accompany you in any possible process.

SANDOVAL: With concerns about what the White House's next step will be it doesn't seem that the phones will stop ringing any time soon.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, Tucson, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: OK, still ahead, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit with U.S. president Donald Trump suddenly disrupted by a provocative missile test from North Korea. We'll have the reaction from both men.

HOWELL: Live from Atlanta, for viewers across the United States and around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:30:58] NEWTON: And we want to welcome our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

U.S. and Japanese officials believe a North Korean missile test Saturday was deliberately timed to the Japanese leader's state visit to the United States. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.S. president Donald Trump appeared briefly interrupted in their visit to make a joint public statement of condemnation of the test.

NEWTON: Clashes broke out in Paris Saturday night over the alleged rape of a young man by police. Now more than 2,000 people were involved in the riots and four vehicles were set on fire. The officers allegedly forced a 22-year-old black man to the ground, beat him, and assaulted him with a baton in a Paris suburb.

HOWELL: In Baghdad, Iraq a police officer killed Saturday during violent clashes with protesters. Just take a look there on the streets. Security officials say that seven other people were injured in the unrest. The demonstrators were followers of a Shiite cleric and were protesting alleged corruption in Iraq's election commission.

NEWTON: And of course now back to our breaking news. North Korea's test of a ballistic missile Saturday was just the latest of many in recent years. But it was the first on U.S. president Donald Trump's watch. And it was done as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on a state visit to the United States.

HOWELL: The timing there very important. South Korea believes that it was a Rodong missile. Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump were briefed on the situation at the president's home in Florida. And afterwards they issued a joint statement. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABE (Through Translator): North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.

TRUMP: I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: In addition, U.S. National Security adviser Michael Flynn has spoken with his counterpart in South Korea. They agreed to seek all options to deter North Korea from any further provocations.

Let's get some context on this big news that is happening. Bring in Scott Lucas, a professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham, live, via Skype this hour from Birmingham, England.

It's good to have you with us, Scott. First of all, the fact that this was likely timed out to coincide with the Japanese prime minister's visit. Your thoughts on that?

SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, it's not only about the Japanese prime minister's visit, but it's also about the trip by the Defense secretary, James Mattis, to East Asia just over a week ago. That trip by Mattis, of course, reassured the Japanese that the U.S. was a solid ally both in relations towards China and towards North Korea. And then Mattis, of course, signaled also that the U.S. wants to sort of back off any confrontation with China, so -- with the South China Sea.

So North Korea sent this out as symbolic response. It's not really an escalation of the crisis. They do this time and time again. But it pointedly is trying to disrupt that U.S. message of a firm alliance with Japan and with cooperation with China.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the optics and the context of what we saw coming from the president of the United States. Again this is not the president on Twitter, this is not the president signing executive orders talking to a domestic audience. Rather this was the president of the United States on stage with another world leader, talking about a big international issue, giving a very brief statement. Just your thoughts, your reaction from what you heard from that brief statement from President Trump?

LUCAS: Well, I think the statement itself, just that one sentence, is sort of a hold the line statement. I mean, there's not much you can say at this point until we know more about the test.

[03:35:03] But that said, it did come across as relatively terse. You would -- not the type of rhetoric you would get from Obama in terms of what a next step might be. A diplomatic step for example. So, you know, Trump is feeling his way. I think what's more important than just jumping on that initial statement is probably the context of the entire visit. And that is Trump wanted to really have, you know, this big high-profile, the kind of fluffy visit where he played golf with Abe yesterday, while keeping reporters penned up at Mar-a-Lago.

And now that attempt is sort of been disrupted by the fact that they have to go into public and show some type of firm response to North Korea.

HOWELL: This happening after the president of the United States affirmed with the Chinese leaders that he would honor the "One China" policy. So the question here -- back on the campaign trail you will remember Donald Trump always said that China could do more to deter, to stop North Korea. So how would a Trump administration work with China, how important will that alliance be given what happened?

LUCAS: Well, I think you raise an important point that in recent days, the pragmatist in the Trump administration have really gotten control of the China policy. In contrast to the president's often provocative tweets about China, for example, raping the U.S. economically, General Mattis, in his trip to Asia, and others very much trying to establish a good way forward with Beijing.

Now I think that pretty much shows that Trump is really sort of taking a backseat on China policy and we'll need to look at State Department and Defense Department as we get into the question of where China will be used to try to contain North Korea.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas live via Skype in Birmingham, England. Scott, thank you so much for being with us. We will be in touch with you, I am sure.

LUCAS: Thank you.

NEWTON: Yes, Scott was saying so interesting to get China's perspective in all of this.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

NEWTON: In terms of the way the containment for North Korea will go.

HOWELL: Right.

NEWTON: Now North Korea has of course engaged in a series of nuclear provocations over the past year. In January, 2016, Pyongyang said it conducted an underground nuclear test, significant claiming it successfully detonated the country's first hydrogen bomb.

HOWELL: The regime also test-fired a number of ballistic missiles, the most successful taking place back in June, with a Musudan missile flying about 200 miles, some 400 kilometers before landing in the sea.

In August, Pyongyang had most successful test-firing of a submarine launch missile. That was flew a little more than 300 miles or about 500 kilometers.

NEWTON: Now in September North Korea conducted its second nuclear test of the year and its most powerful to date. A blast estimated at, at least, 10 kilotons.

Now, meantime, moving on to some other news we're following. Emotions are running high as Republican lawmakers struggle to find a replacement for Obamacare. Now its supporters are asking some very pointed questions.

HOWELL: Plus emergency crews respond to dozens of calls in the Midwest state of Kentucky after a massive spike in drug overdoses. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SPORTS)

[03:41:54] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. There is more trouble for the U.S. president Donald Trump and for some Republicans. Facing an angry backlash over the planned repeal of Obamacare.

NEWTON: Mm-hmm. You will want to see this. A town hall meeting in the U.S. state of Florida erupted into a war of word this weekend over so-called death panels. Now that's a scare tactic put forth by Republicans that government bureaucrats would decide which patients were actually worthy of health care. And of course it has been debunked over and over again.

HOWELL: And over and over again. Obamacare supporters shouted down the death panels alleged existence.

CNN's Boris Sanchez was there and sends us this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tension is running high and emotions boiling over.

REP. GUS BILIRAKIS, (R) FLORIDA: My party had virtually no input.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boo.

BILIRAKIS: No input.

(CROWD SHOUTING)

BILIRAKIS: Well, OK. So that's OK. That's OK.

SANCHEZ: The crowd at a town hall in New Port Richey, Florida, not holding back, pushing hard against indications from Republicans that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act is looming without a unified plan for a replacement from the GOP.

(CROWD SHOUTING "WHAT'S YOUR PLAN?")

SANCHEZ: Town Halls like this one have been organized across the country by Republican lawmakers to better communicate their positions on health care to constituents. But in the past week, protesters have swarmed to these venues, giving lawmakers in both chambers of Congress an earful.

(CROWD SHOUTING "DO YOUR JOB")

SANCHEZ: On Saturday, Representative Gus Bilirakis from Florida's 12th District faced them, too. Some shared deeply personal stories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daughter has a genetic disease called Gitelman syndrome. Now before the ACA, we spent thousands of dollars. We spent tons of time because she had a preexisting condition and nobody would touch her. We talked -- they were talking at one point $10,000 for one year's worth of insurance, OK. So now she has the ACA, since 2009 and she is now able to get the medication she needs to save her life.

SANCHEZ: Others were more forceful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do not get rid of the ACA. You will have so many big problems. It's not funny.

SANCHEZ: A handful of Donald Trump supporters also got to voice their concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, yes, yes. So you need -- you need to find out the facts before you start complaining.

BILL AKINS, PASCO COUNTY REPUBLICAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: Here's the problem I have with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Number one, there is a provision in there that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel.

(CROWD SHOUTING "NO")

AKINS: Yes, they do. Yes, they do. It's in there, folks. You're wrong.

[03:45:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am 77 years old, and I think it's unconscionable for this politician to tell me that at 74 I will be facing death panels. That's wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I have --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You misunderstood me. I'm on your side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're angry with this particular plan, not because of the plan itself, but because who is proposing the plan.

SANCHEZ: Representative Bilirakis who was reelected in a landslide last year assured constituents that he planned to take their stories back to Washington. The congressman has voted to defund the ACA in the past. A spokesman says he considers it his duty to take input from all of his constituents, though not all of them believe that he's going to actually change his stance.

DR. PETER RIQUETTI, PHYSICIAN: I think hearing personal anecdotes is something that plays well on news bites and sounds like you are invested in the community, but I think in reality it's a show.

SANCHEZ: As for the increased interest and public outcries at town halls, one Democratic activist says that we should expect more.

IVANA SHEPPARD, LOCAL ACTIVIST: So I don't see that passion and that anxiety and that fear dissipating unless we see some real change.

SANCHEZ: Boris Sanchez, CNN, Newport Richey, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: That is an issue that has been debunked several times. Again seeing it play out there. Another story we've been following, drug overdose cases that have

spiked in the U.S. state of Kentucky. Emergency crews responded to 52 overdose calls in Louisville this week during a span of just 32 hours.

NEWTON: That's an incredible, devastating for that community. Officials say most were caused by heroin. But there were also overdoses of alcohol and prescription medications. No deaths have been reported.

HOWELL: Another story, a lot of people saw this, coming up. Melissa McCarthy takes a triumphant return to "Saturday Night Live," an encore performance as the White House press secretary Sean Spicer. The soon- to-go-viral spoof. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:51:11] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. So for our viewers who are waking up or can't get to sleep in the northeastern part of the United States, some really bad weather coming your way.

NEWTON: Yes, and the kids are already hoping for a snow day. You can see. Yes. Meteorologist Julie Martin joins us now with the latest from the international weather center. What about that snow day, Julie?

JULIE MARTIN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think they may get it in places like Boston once again.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOWELL: You know, someone just mentally didn't want to see that forecast there. Like let's just block it out. We don't want to see it.

NEWTON: I mean, really?

HOWELL: Julie, thank you so much. So the 59th Annual Grammy Awards air Sunday.

NEWTON: Yes. And whether you're watching the red carpet for fashion or the performances it is definitely worth a preview.

Our Stephanie Elam always gets the best job.

HOWELL: Doesn't she?

NEWTON: Let's go to Steph.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Adele to Beyonce, the Grammy Awards honor the biggest names in music and 2017 is no exception.

JEM ASWAD, SENIOR EDITOR, BILLBOARD MAGAZINE: It is the Vatican, sort of, of the music business and of music entertainment. ELAM: Beyonce leads the charge with nine nominations, including Song

of the Year, Record of the Year, and the night's most competitive prize, Album of the Year.

The singer's latest collection, "Lemonade," faces off against Adele's "25," Justin Bieber's "Purpose," Drake's "Views," and Sturgill Simpson's "A Sailor's Guide to Earth."

[03:55:03] Awards aren't the only thing on deck at the Grammys. Expect some big collaborations. Lady Gaga with Metallica and The Weekend with Daft Punk are just a few of the duets set to hit the stage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

Also actor Alec Baldwin returned to host the U.S. sketch comedy show "Saturday Night Live," his 17th time this week to do so.

NEWTON: Yes, he reminded everybody about that.

HOWELL: He did.

NEWTON: But it was Melissa McCarthy's encore performance of White House press secretary, Spicy, we'll call him, Sean Spicer, that kicked off the big show with some laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Now I am going to open it up for questions. And I am going to probably freak if you start asking stupid ones. Speaking of freaks, and stupid ones, Glen Trush, "New York Times." Stupid hat, go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, I just wanted to know what the president intends to do now that the appeals court denied your request to stop the travel ban.

MCCARTHY: You're testing me, big guy. Look, it's simple. If the appeals court won't do what's right, President Trump will see them in court specifically the people's court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That isn't real.

MCCARTHY: Duh, that isn't real, uh. I'm Glen and I'm not real. It is real, Glen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Spicy will be spicy.

NEWTON: Thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Thanks for being with us. Another hour of NEWSROOM straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)