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CNN NEWSROOM

Tomorrow: The Health Care Bill's Price Tag; White House Told To Provide Wiretapping Proof Monday; GOP Senate Republicans United On Repeal Not On Replace; Health Care Bill Cost Analysis Released Monday; Senator Paul: GOP Health Care Plan Is "Obamacare Lite"; Tillerson Makes First Asia Trip As Regional Tensions Escalate; Tillerson Facing Big Challenges Over Koreas, China; SNL Takes Aim At "Complicit" Ivanka Trump; CNN Follows Fierce Battles Between Iraqi Force And ISIS; Cult Leader "Jezus" Opens Up To Reza Aslan. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 12, 2017 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:02]ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Hello on this Sunday night. First up, what to do about the nation's health care systems? Republicans got control of the White House and Congress promising to change it. Democrats are promising to fight them at every turn.

What it will look like remains to be seen still, but in just a few hours, we'll get an idea of what it will cost. Tomorrow, Monday, that when we'll see a price tag. The Congressional Budget Office is set to make public its cost analysis of the bill that's meant to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Now at town hall meetings this weekend, Republicans, Democrats, they all heard from their voters, some concerned about the plan's cost, others worried that millions could be left without coverage.

And earlier today, the man who will oversee the plan, whatever it looks like promise that cost to you, the consumer or the patient, won't be wildly different.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we are going through, understanding that they'll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: And those in Congress who oppose the bill beg to differ. They are not as confident that cost won't be an issue. One senator who got closer than most to the White House's theory about how quickly this bill is moving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: This bill is so outrageous, that not only are the Republicans moving forward in the House without the CBO score, they want to move forward in the Senate without any hearings whatsoever. If you realize this bill is going to impact tens and tens and millions of people, to the best of my knowledge they want to bring it right to the floor of the Senate. I'm a member of the Health Education Committee, when Obamacare was being debated, we had hearing after hearing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: More on that in just a moment. We're also watching this today, intelligence officials in Congress want to see the evidence to back up President Trump's claim that his phones were tapped last year by his predecessor.

And the House Intelligence Committee gave the White House, the Department of Justice a deadline to show proof, that deadline is tomorrow. CNN's Athena Jones is here with more on that. Athena, you're there at the White House tonight, any indication yet on what's going to happen tomorrow?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana, no, no indication that this White House is prepared to produce any proof that backs up the president's unsubstantiated allegations against his predecessor, this is the question that White House officials all the way up to the president have been dodging and ducking for the past eight days ever since the president made those allegations early last Saturday morning.

In fact, just a couple of days ago, a reporter was standing just a few feet from the president and asked him three times about any proof of this wiretapping claim and that reporter was ignored.

Vice President Mike Pence was also asked in a Fox News interview this past week, asked a direct question about whether he think this is happened and he declined to say that he did, instead pointing to these investigations by these congressional intelligence committees.

So these are questions that have not just being asked by reporters and not just being asked by Democrats, also Republicans on Capitol Hill want to see what evidence the White House or the Justice Department can provide to back this up.

Here's what Senator John McCain had to say about all of this on "STATE OF THE UNION." Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: President Trump has to provide the American people not just the Intelligence Committee, but the American people with evidence that his predecessor, former president of the United States, was guilty of breaking the law because our director of National Intelligence General Clapper testified that there was absolutely no truth to that allegation.

So I think the president has one of two choices. Either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve because if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we've got a serious issue here, to say the least.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And it would have a serious issue if it had happened. It's important to remind our viewers that the former President Obama has strenuously denied that he had any role in the wiretapping of Trump Tower and former intelligence officials have told CNN that this did not happen.

And one thing we should note, Ana, is that, as you mentioned earlier, it's the Department of Justice that has been asked to provide these documents. The House Intelligence Committee sent a letter to the Justice Department on Friday demanding that they turn over any relevant documents related to the wiretapping by tomorrow.

But it was the FBI director -- the FBI of course, is under the purview of the Department of Justice, the FBI director about this time last week called on Department of Justice officials to publicly refute the president's baseless claims because they were erroneous, because he was making a charge that would have been illegal.

[20:05:05]Now the Department of Justice has declined to make any such statement, but it is noteworthy that this is the same agency that's being asked to provide evidence that several officials argued just doesn't exist -- Ana.

CABRERA: And of course, the administration will give a schedule for what's going to happen on the day's events, anything on there that signals they will be addressing this issue?

JONES: No indications yet of any plans to address this tomorrow, but we'll have to wait and see, if there is a briefing, it is sure to come up -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much.

Joining me now, A. Scott Bolden, a Democratic strategist and former chairman of the Washington, D.C. Democratic Party, and also Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz.

So today on "Meet The Press," good evening -- Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said this today, I quote, "I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process," at the end of this bill proposal by the Republicans.

After those comments, Breitbart posted the headline, quote, "Upcoming lie of the year," about Price's comments. So Alice, do you think those words by Tom Price will come back to hurt him and haunt him perhaps?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's hope not, not any more so than the Obama administration when they said Obamacare would lead to lower cost and higher choices, and that has not been the case. Look, the reason we're here is because with the Obamacare, we were promised lower costs and higher choices and it has led to higher costs and fewer choices.

And that is what President Trump and Republicans across the board campaigned on, is repealing and replacing Obamacare, and that's what they're doing, they're keeping their promises. They knew it was going to be a difficult call, would be a heavy lift, and they have a plan on the table, which has passed two House committees.

But they are listening to people on both sides, and listening to conservative Republicans, who have some concerns about Medicaid expansion and some of the tax credits. So we're at the beginning stages of a long process of putting a bill together that will satisfy people on both sides of the aisle and also make way for quality affordable care for all Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, Ana, this death spiral the Republicans keep talking about, you know, 80 percent of everyone that has Obamacare says they would rather have Obamacare that have something that won't replace it as significant or on an equal basis.

The other thing is, Obamacare is more popular now than it's ever been. I think it's up like 3 percent over the last six months or the last year. So Obamacare is working. It's not perfect, don't get me wrong, and it needs some work.

But the Republican alternative after six to eight years, whereas the party of no, even their own party members in the Senate and House can't get together on the bill and the Democrats quite frankly just don't believe in the bill.

It's a bad bill, because they're going to end the Medicaid expansion. They're going to limit Medicaid itself. People aren't going to be able to afford to put money into the health care bank accounts.

And more importantly, if they get a gap, if working class and poor people will get a gap in services, they're going to charge them a 30 percent penalty or increase just to get back on insurance.

That may sound like a choice, but a mandate sounds a lot better, because at least they have some form of insurance versus being on the public payroll.

STEWART: Ana, I would imagine that Obamacare is not popular with the people who were promised that their costs would be $2,500 less per year when in fact now they're on average $3,000 more per year for the average Americans --

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: -- and many counties in this country only have one insurance company in which to choose from, that's not higher choices, and look, as Secretary Price had mentioned earlier this week, a lot of people might have a car, they might have Obamacare coverage, but they can't afford the deductible so that is not quality, affordable health care. That is what Republicans are addressing. That's what we are going to see with the new bill.

CABRERA: A quick fact check for both of you first. Wait, hold your thought for just a moment there, Scott. Let's do a fact check here, because as Scott mentioned, it is true that public support for Obamacare is at an all-time high right now, according to all across the board, the latest polling.

On that flip side, Scott, it is also true that a lot of people are seeing their premiums go up under Obamacare, in fact 116 percent up for people in Arizona, for example. So as you point out, the bill Obamacare is not perfect, why not give something else a try, Scott?

BOLDEN: Well, because -- we'll give something a try and work on the premiums going up. But this bill is about tax breaks, OK, and this bill is not equivalent and this bill is not going to cover everyone.

[20:10:03]Every stake holder in this country, hospitals, doctors, beyond Democrats, believe that this bill is a bad bill because it won't do what it's promising to do, it can't cover all of those people, all of the people who need it, while limiting Medicare or ending Medicaid expansion and taking away Medicaid.

You just can't do it. I got to tell you, the real watch is the CBO report because you can hear the Republicans walking away and trying to say bad things, if your will, about the CBO report. That's a data point that it's going to be the best data point.

And I can promise you, I wish I could promise you, but that CBO report is going to be hung around the Republican bill like a led weight because it's going to show how many people are going to lose coverage and how expensive it's going to be, and Republicans are not going to be able to run from it.

So tomorrow's a big day and we're going to see just how well this Republican bill is going to help the American people, it's not.

CABRERA: Alex, the expectation is that that CBO report is going to show millions of people who will not have health insurance anymore.

STEWART: I agree with Scott on the fact that the CBO report will be critical and that is an important component on any discussion that we're having about this new health care bill and it may change the conversation.

Look, we also have to factor in, that when the CBO report came out with regard to Obamacare, they were dramatically off on the numbers, and the estimates they had were way off. So we have to take that into consideration.

But it's a good frame work and it's a good gauge from which to start the conversation on how many people will be covered and the cost. Also keeping in mind, conservative Republicans are really pushing back and really going to have some input in this.

And there was some conversations this is week, we know that members of Congress are going to have pizza and some conversations about health care this week at the White House, which is important because they didn't have the opportunity to do so with Obamacare.

So we're going to have a lot of the things that Scott mentioned are important and members of Congress are going to have the opportunity to present that and that's part of the discussion.

And I do think that many factors will be brought to the table that haven't been introduced in the bill right now. And there's going to be a compromise that takes in all of these concerns and will make a bill that will lead to quality affordable health care.

CABRERA: You know, it's not just politicians who have been unhappy with this on both sides of the aisle, but it has been doctors, hospitals, insurers who have been spoken out against it. Why do you think everybody across the board, not everybody, that's still too much to say, but why so many people are unhappy with it, Alice?

STEWART: There's even conservative Republicans who are extremely unhappy with it.

CABRERA: Why is nobody happy?

STEWART: Well, there are a lot of people that are happy. Certainly, ask Paul Ryan, he's thrilled with it and Secretary Price is happy with it. President Trump is happy with it. There is a lot of people that think this is a good option and a good solution to the unaffordable Obamacare, which was promised to be affordable, it is not affordable. It is not sustainable.

And what I think we have is framework from which to begin the conversation and a lot of people have some ideas on how to make it better and how to make its more affordable and how to include more people.

And as I mentioned some of those conservative Republicans that are out there want to have their voices heard and they will and that includes conversations about Medicaid expansion, they want that sooner rather than later.

And some of these tax credits, they see as subsidies, they want to do away with that. So there is a lot of work that needs to be done and I am encouraged that President Trump is going to listen to people from all sides.

CABRERA: All right, we'll have to leave it there, guys. Got to go. Scott Bolden and Alice Stewart, thank you both.

Coming up live in the CNN NEWSROOM, the human side of the health care debate, we'll hear from a woman who has health insurance for the first time in her life thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sort of ailments do you have right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: High blood pressure, diabetes, I have a torn rotator cuff and I have a bad knee. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:18]

CABRERA: President Trump says despite what you hear in the press, health care is coming along great. He tweeted that very message this week adding, quote, "We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture."

Still some Americans worry what the new Republican plan could mean for their health care coverage and that includes areas that backed Trump in the election. CNN's Miguel Marquez reports from Kentucky.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 24-year-old Alondra Toribio enrolling in Medicaid, the health care drama in Washington, D.C. playing out right here in Owensboro, Kentucky.

ALONDRA TORIBIO, SIGNED UP FOR MEDICAID: I feel like I was put in a position where it was either accepted or go into debt and I was not wanting to be in debt especially for me and my son.

MARQUEZ: Toribio works for a Head Start Program and has a 3-year-old. She could get insurance through her employer, but the cost prohibitive.

TORIBIO: If I was to get that insurance, I would only come home with $100 a week.

MARQUEZ: Employer-based insurance just too much for this single mother. Today more than 1.3 million Kentuckians are on Medicaid. If the current Republican House bill becomes law, 440,000 of those insured thanks to the Medicaid expansion would likely see their coverage vanish.

(on camera): How many people have you signed up in Owensboro?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands.

MARQUEZ: Thousands?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Suzanne Craig signs up residents for Medicaid in several western Kentucky counties. The population here she says is hardworking but poor.

SUZANNE CRAIG, GREEN RIVER DISTRICT HEALTH DEPARTMENT: There are people who will make about $32,000 in household income.

MARQUEZ: Marilu Adams, a nurse practitioner says since Obamacare kicked in, she's seen the health of her community improve. MARILU ADAMS, GREEN RIVER DISTRICT HEALTH DEPARTMENT: We are seeing people that didn't come before with chronic diseases that felt like they did not have access.

MARQUEZ: The 63-year-old Paula Murphy never had insurance until Obamacare helped her get Medicaid.

(on camera): What sort of ailments do you have right now?

PAULA MURPHY, HAS MEDICAID THROUGH OBAMACARE: High blood pressure, diabetes, I have a torn rotator cuff and a bad knee.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Twenty eight years ago, she broke her back. It took her a decade to pay off the debt. Her message to Donald Trump, follow through on your promise to make health care better.

MURPHY: All I know is that at the moment I'm gravely concerned. If he can do what he says he can do, I might be OK with it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Now two powerful Kentucky Republicans are not so impressed with the health care plan, Senator Rand Paul and Governor Mike Bevin are fierce critics of this bill. Senator Paul said this this morning referring to it as Obamacare Lite. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:15:06]SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think that's the pre- negotiation. We're still in the pre-negotiation period. The real negotiation period comes and I promise you this is where it's going to work. We will get Obamacare Lite.

Ryan's plan unless there is enough conservatives in the House to say no. If there's enough to say no, when they start voting on the rules of debate, if they bring the rule, if they stop him in the tracks, then a true negotiation begins.

No negotiation right now counts until they determine they have enough votes to stop Obamacare Lite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I want to talk more about this, this Republican division and President Trump's role in this health care legislation. Joining me now, Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Now the White House has said don't call this Trumpcare, even though Trump has been cheerleading this legislation. But Larry, Candidate Trump, of course, ran largely on the promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare.

He is a businessman who's put his name on hotels, golf courses, lots of products, so why wouldn't he want his name on this? LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, maybe because he fears that in the end it will be a disaster. You know, they lose either way potentially. On the one hand, if they can't get a repeal of Obamacare in some fashion passed, they will have violated the pledge, the very prominent pledge they made in the elections of 2012, 2014, 2016.

And something tells me that potentially conservative Republicans will remember this and maybe challenge some of the incumbents in GOP primaries in 2018. On the other hand, if they do pass something like Paul Ryan's proposed bill, then millions of people are going to lose their health insurance.

I think that's pretty obvious to everybody, but what isn't obvious and what most surprising is a very large majority of the people who will probably lose health care are Trump voters. It's rare that you vote for something and you end up suffering on account of it so quickly.

CABRERA: Now of course, Vice President Mike Pence has been trying to rally support around the health care reform. He was on the road this weekend, he went to Kentucky, of course, where our colleague, Miguel Marquez, was just reporting from. Do you think he's the most effective person to deliver this message or should it be President Trump who we saw during the campaign was an effective messenger at rallies?

SABATO: Well, it's all hands on deck and certainly they could use Vice President Pence in some places, but before it's over if Trump is really serious about getting some bill passed, he's going to have the hit the road and convince people to pressure their Republican members of the House and the Senate to vote for this.

It always tells you something when there is division in the majority party about a proposal made by the majority party's president. That's never a good sign, and it means there's going to be a terrible, a very serious struggle ahead, just to get anything passed.

CABRERA: Trump won Kentucky by 30 percentage points back in November. A lot of voters there as you pointed out, many Trump supporters rely on Obamacare, what would the political fallout look like if that Obamacare is taken away and is replaced with what we're seeing right now from Republicans?

SABATO: It's bound to hurt Republicans in some future elections. Trump's is four years off, but many members of the Senate and all members of the House are up in 2018. Again, it's impossible to evade responsibility for something like this.

When you are the majority party in both the House and the Senate and you control the White House and you ran on the idea of abolishing the problems in health care and creating a perfect system four times.

CABRERA: Exactly. Larry Sabato, thank you very much. Good to have you with us.

And tune in this Wednesday night, we'll dive deeper, Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash will have a town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about the new GOP health care proposal, Obamacare, what comes next. That's Wednesday night at 9:00 Eastern on CNN.

Up next, a high profile trip, pretty low profile Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heading overseas but with no press, and leaving behind questions about just how much influence he has in the White House. That's coming up. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:28:18]

CABRERA: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes one of his first big trips overseas this week when he visits Asia. Now big topics, of course, are North Korea and the threats against Japan and South Korea. Plus the growing friction between the U.S. and China. The trip is going to be low key by secretary of state standards. Tillerson is bringing little in the way of staff and no media.

Earlier, I spoke with CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labbott about Secretary Tillerson's low profile in the new administration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELISE LABOTT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty unusual, Ana. I mean, we know that as the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, kept a notoriously low profile. But as the nation's top diplomat, a large part of that is really public diplomacy and kind of the explainer-in- chief, if you will, of communicating U.S. foreign policy, and getting the U.S. message, which not only helps educate the American people and the world, but also kind of helps the U.S. with its influence overseas.

You know, Rex Tillerson since he's come to office has kept really a very low profile, but certainly as he goes to Asia, in this very tense time, not only between North Korea and the region, but also between the U.S. and China. I think people are really looking for more of a vision of how he sees himself and U.S. foreign policy.

CABRERA: So it may be unusual to have a low profile, does that necessarily mean it's ineffective?

LABOTT: Well, I mean, look, it's still early, we don't know how effective he's going to be ultimately. He certainly has a lot of access to President Trump, the two have meet several times a week. They'll have lunch. They'll have dinner. They're talking on the phone all the time.

[20:30:00] But if you look at some of the world leaders, they're gravitating toward Jared Kushner, who is the son-in-law of President Trump and a very close advisor.

The Mexican foreign minister was in town. He told Secretary Tillerson, listen, I have to have a private meeting with Jared Kushner. The Saudi deputy crown prince was in town a few weeks ago, he gravitated toward the White House. I think a lot of times, Jared Kushner, who also is taking on the Mideast peace file, is seen as someone who is very close to President Trump, maybe people feel like they might have more of an in at the White House.

If you combine that with the fact that Rex Tillerson has kept a very low profile, I think this could maybe ultimately affect his influence on the world stage, if world leaders aren't seeing him out there as the voice of U.S. foreign policy that raises a lot of questions.

But again, it's very early to know what his vision is and I think people are really hungry for more information about who he is, what he's doing on behalf of President Trump for U.S. foreign policy, you know, they're really looking for that chief U.S. diplomat to play more of a visible role.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks to Elise Labbot tonight and don't miss Elise's digital piece, Tillerson finds it's hard for a CEO to become a secretary. That's at CNN.com.

Now the next Senate race in California just got less interesting. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided he is not running for that seat.

In a statement out today, he says in part, "I am deeply flattered by all of the people who have approached me about running for Senate, but my mission right now is to bring sanity to Washington through redistricting reform. I believe my best platform to help repair it is from the outside."

Last night "Saturday Night Live" opened with jokes about President Donald Trump, shocking, right? But the show saved its toughest shot for his daughter, Ivanka. Did SNL go too far targeting the president's family? That's coming up live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:14]

CABRERA: As usual, "Saturday Night Live" pulling no punches last night and going after President Trump, but the show saved it's most brutal shot for his daughter, Ivanka. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Every man knows her name, every woman knows her face. When she walks into a room, all eyes are on her. She's Ivanka and a woman like her deserves a fragrance all her own, a scent made just for her, because she's beautiful, she's powerful, she's complicit. For the woman who knows what she wants and knows what she's doing. Complicit. She doesn't crave the spotlight, but we see her. How we see her.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Here to discuss, Dean Obeidallah, is a contributor for the "Daily Beast" and host of the "Dean Obeidallah Show" on Sirius XM, also formerly of "SNL" and a CNN commentator and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart. She's back with us as well.

Dean, to you first, you're a comedian, there has to be a line somewhere doesn't? And shouldn't the president's family be the line?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": There is a line somewhere and that's really going to be with the children, if you made fun of Barron, a 10-year-old kid. Ivanka Trump is not beyond making fun of her. She's part of this administration.

She met with Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, the Japanese prime minister. She reportedly helped President Trump with his speech in Congress. She's an integral part of this administration.

A little comedy, the best thing is punching up, that's what this is. It's going after people with power. I think it hit really a home run, because already 400,000 views on YouTube, people sharing it all over Twitter.

And I think "Saturday Night Live," Donald Trump should appreciate this. This is an administration that hates being p.c., they're going after the daughter by saying you're complicit in this.

You're talking about feminist issues and your dad should be in the sexist hall of fame. Let's be honest. I think that's what they really doing, a juxtaposition between the two right there.

CABRERA: Alice, should Ivanka be fair game?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ana, let me just say this, watching that clip, I have met Ivanka many times on the campaign trail, and I have to say she's just as glamorous in real life as she was in that. Even when she was 10 months pregnant on the campaign trail in Iowa on caucus night, she was glamorous and professional, and dignified.

And that's exactly the kind of person she is and a very endearing person. And I strongly believe and always have believed, that family members especially children of candidates or elected officials are completely off-limits.

However, in this case, I agree with Dean. She is not just your normal daughter of an elected official, she's an advisor. She has a seat at the table. She helps him with policy. She helps him with speeches and she is an important member of the Trump administration.

And I think it is fair game for her to be made fun of just as they do with Sean Spicer and they have done with Kellyanne Conway. It's not fun and it hurts, but that's part of the game and that's part of politics, it's a blood sport.

And certainly "SNL" is getting a lot of attention by making fun of this administration, but as difficult as it is, I think she's fair game, but she is tough person. She is a strong woman and I like to think she's going to just let this roll off her back like a lot of other things have.

CABRERA: Dean, the show sort of described her as the woman who could stop all of this, some of the chaos and some of what we're seeing in the administration, but isn't that what the voters elected?

OBEIDALLAH: First of all, can I savor the moment, Alice and I agree on something? This is great. A conservative and a progressive agreeing, this is a beautiful moment. I think that he won, but he lost 3 million of the popular vote. Even the Rasmussen poll, which is a right leaning one, he's under water right there.

He's having trouble. So I think I'm hoping Ivanka Trump can stop everything that President Trump is doing is too much to ask for, but she can play a role. People say he respects her. He listens to her views.

He had an impact on the speech in Congress. He can do something here. So that's the hope. I mean, we still would like President Trump to be the president of all Americans, as a Muslim, it's very hard for me to embrace President Trump with the Muslim ban.

But at some point, maybe Ivanka could be that olive branch between the rest of the country and Trump administration. That's the hope.

CABRERA: Do you think that could be the case, Alice? Should she take on that responsibility? Should she feel the need to try to be the olive branch?

STEWART: Ana, I think no one can stop Trump from being Trump that is why he's the president of the United States. The person he is today is the person he was throughout the campaign.

[20:40:05]His language was just the way it is now as it was during the campaign and people voted for him. We knew exactly what we were getting and the American people understood you have to take some of the salty language with the policy, which is what they wanted.

I'm not convinced that she hasn't reeled him in quite a bit. I think his tweets have scaled back quite a bit. His language has certainly quite a bit since he's elected president.

So I think she has had a tremendous influence on him as far as bringing him. I think he has become much more presidential in the last 50 days and I think she has had a tremendous on that.

And I think she is doing a lot with the absence of Melania at the White House, she's doing a great job to be someone who gives him comfort and be by his side and give him the presence that I think is critical in this administration and I think she's doing a great job.

And let's hope that "SNL" has had their fun and will go pick on someone else the next time.

CABRERA: Do you still agree with Alice?

OBEIDALLAH: On some level, yes, but I mean, "SNL" is going to pick on Donald Trump a lot. What I think about this comedy was so good because the cold open went after Donald Trump as this kind of cartoonish buffoon type of thing, which is becoming their stereotype of Trump. This was really daring to talk about Ivanka Trump in this way.

CABRERA: She's pretty popular.

OBEIDALLAH: I think she probably is more popular than her father frankly. She's less divisive. I think it was daring and it resonates with a lot of people on the left. That everyone in this administration is visible, is complicit on some level with Donald Trump trafficking during the campaign of sexist and bigotry and racist.

At least that's how we see them on the left. On the right, they might disagree. So we want them to speak out and say this is wrong. I mean, she's a feminist. That's what she talks about.

Well, then have your father go speak to women's group, and I honestly think he should apologize for shaming victims of sexual assault that came forward in the campaign and said things about him.

Apologize to Carly Fiorina, for making fun of her face during the campaign. Apologize to Megyn Kelly, make this effort, be vigor, President Trump, and maybe she can help in that role.

CABRERA: Finally, Alice, put this way, the question is, I guess, if you're not speaking out against some of the things that the president is doing, does that make somebody like Ivanka complicit?

STEWART: Look, I think to Dean's point, the president has said that he regrets some comments that he's made that have been harmful to people. I worked for Ted Cruz, no one was hit harder than Ted Cruz during the campaign and things he said about his father and his wife, and they broke bread together just this past week.

So I think to the degree that Donald Trump can issue an apology, he has done so to people that he feels feelings may have been hurt. But you know, at the end of the day, Ivanka is his daughter.

She is going to support him to the end and I think that is part of their relationship and that's what makes him so unique and that's part of what makes Donald Trump who he is.

You can disagree with his politics, you can disagree with his policies, but also everyone can agree, he's got tremendous kids, they all love each other and respect each other and he's been a great father and there's certainly no denying or disputing that fact.

CABRERA: All right, Alice Stewart, Dean Obeidallah, thank you both for being here.

Still ahead, Iraqi forces, they're not letting up in their battle to liberate Western Mosul. We'll take you inside a running street battle in the besieged city.

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[20:47:04]

CABRERA: Iraqi forces have been fighting to take back the city of Mosul for nearly five months. Right now, they're focusing their efforts on the west side of the city trying to bring that back from ISIS fighters.

The Iraqi government says at least 100,000 civilians have cleared out of the city since the operation began three weeks ago in the western part.

CNN correspondent, Ben Wedeman, met with some of those who remained. He took these photos, including a picture of one family who scrambled to grab whatever they could as they escaped. There's also a woman and her children who fled under sniper fire and a woman thanking a federal police officer who helped liberate her neighborhood.

She told CNN she hasn't been able to smoke cigarettes for two years under ISIS rule. Not all of Western Mosul has been liberated yet, however, and here's Ben Wedeman, CNN exclusive, which shows the resistance from ISIS has been fierce.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunfire roaring nearby, Mosul residents flee their neighborhood of (inaudible). Then an ISIS suicide car bomb explodes nearby, pieces of metal and concrete raining down.

The blast sets an Iraqi federal police Humvee on fire, killing several policemen, wounding others. This footage provided to CNN by freelance cameraman, Ricardo Villanueva (ph), is raw glimpse of the intensity of the battle for Western Mosul.

Iraqi officials are not putting out casualty figures, but it's clear government forces are paying a high price. ISIS fighters continue to put up stiff resistance, car bombs their weapon of choice. They have used dozens to attack Iraqi forces since the push in West Mosul began two and half weeks ago.

More than 70,000 civilians have fled the western part of the city. Others like this old woman and her granddaughter had no choice but to stick it out. Hundreds of thousands remain inside hanging white flags on their doors in the hopes they'll be spared.

Fighting in Western Mosul appears far heavier than in the East, where it took Iraqi forces three months to gain control. The praise "war as hell" here becomes reality. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Erbil, Northern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Thank you, Ben. Coming up, in an all-new episode of CNN's "BELIEVER," a self- proclaimed doomsday prophet says the world is coming to an end. We'll take you inside his cult. That's next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[20:53:50]

CABRERA: On an all-new episode of the CNN series, "BELIEVER," Reza Aslan heads to Hawaii to sit down with the doomsday cult leader who goes by Jezus with a "Z," and they talk struggles and responsibilities that come with being a self-proclaimed prophet. Here's a preview.

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REZA ASLAN, CNN HOST, "BELIEVER": Ever thought about what would happen if something happened to you before the prophecy gets fulfilled. What happens to all of this? Who's going to succeed you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been busy recruiting disciples, the most important for me, apostles. They go and preach and come back. Yes, they always come back.

ASLAN: Tell me about the stress that's involved in having to keep all of this together. All of these people who rely on you, what kind of responsibility do you feel about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard. It's really hard. You know, I have the responsibility to provide for them, food, water, safety, shelter, but you also have to provide spiritually. I feel responsible for their soul.

[20:55:04]They're there because they believe in my vision and there's fear that I'm going to let them down, you know, it's hard being a prophet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The host of CNN believer, Reza Aslan. Tell us more about this group. I it looked like you're really listening to what he was saying.

ASLAN: That's actually the second meeting that I had with Jesuz. He was quite manic, very what I like to call prophet mode. He was giving me his prophesies and working himself up into a frenzy. It was quite frightening, giving some serious thought to getting back on a plane and coming home.

But after spending about a week with his group and finding out what these people believed and why they were there, why they had abandoned everything to come to this secret hideaway on the big island, prepare for the end times, to follow this man.

I had a different view of who he was and that second conversation is a result of a much calmer Jesuz with a "z."

CABRERA: Did you find him convincing or infectious in some way?

ASLAN: I mean, he's definitely charismatic. There is no question about that. There's something about him that draws people from all over the world to him. But I will say that's important to understand that people are there for whole host of different reasons. And that's why it was important for me to really spend some deep time there.

Some of them are true believers, devout believers, they will follow him until the end of the earth. Some of them, certainly believe that we are headed for some kind of catastrophic climactic disaster, but whether they actually accept his prophesy and whether they believe in his plan to build an arc to save it, that's a whole other thing.

CABRERA: You say you accidentally convinced Jesuz with a "z" that he was in fact the messiah. How did that happen?

ASLAN: Well, it shouldn't come as a surprise to find out that doomsday groups like this are kind of insular and secretive. So when we first reached out to him to see if it would be possible for us to come with our camera crew and live with them for a while, we thought it would be difficult to convince him.

It was very easy. He immediately said yes, and only later that I find out that apparently a few years ago, he had a bit of a crisis of faith. He started doubting whether he actually was the messiah, and then he heard me on NPR talking about my book zealot which is a book about other Jesus, the one with the "s."

The one that we're going to see on "Finding Jesus" in a moment. And somehow what I wrote convinced him that he was right. That he actually is the messiah. All his doubts went away, and he redoubled his efforts.

CABRERA: I don't know what to think about that. Hey, I want to ask you about something, something serious. Something about faith and culture. We know at least five Jewish community centers received bomb threats just today. That's the latest in a very recent and large spike of incidents coming about religious intolerance. What do you think can be done to stop this from happening?

ASLAN: And indeed mosques have been attacked, a number of Indians have been attacked. Look, we are at a point right now where because of a lot of the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House and in the halls of power, there are groups of Americans who feel as though their very identity is under threat by the diversity that is America.

And I understand where that fear comes from, but we need to do everything in our power to lower the temperature on this divisiveness. And unfortunately, it's hard to convince the White House that while it may be politically expedient to continue with some of this divisive polarizing rhetoric about Mexicans and Muslims and people who don't look like everyone else, unfortunately, we are seeing now the results of that kind of rhetoric. And it's dangerous, and it has to stop.

CABRERA: Reza Aslan, thanks so much for joining us. Don't miss the all new episode of "BELIEVER" with Reza Aslan at 10:00 Eastern tonight here on CNN.

We have a great night of television ahead for you. Up next, all new "FINDING JESUS" episode, "Fact, Forgery, Raising Lazarus." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with me. I'll be back next weekend at 3 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. Have a great week.

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