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CNN NEWSROOM

Optimism Wearing Thin; Gas Attack in Syria; Immigrants and Crime Reports; Republican talk Health Care; Republican News Conference. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired April 4, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Years for women to catch up with men. We have been seeing, for white women in particular, the pay gap has been narrowing. But for black and Hispanic women, it will take much, much longer than that if current - if the current situation persists, that's where the policy comes into play. You know, favorable policies for men and women in the workforce and maybe more pay transparency for companies so that you can see where the problems lie.

Guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Christine Romans, optical optimism, a phrase coined this morning that I like quite a bit. All right, great to see you. Thanks so much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, we have some breaking news. Horrifying reports coming out of northern Syria. Word of a gas or chemical attack in the Idlib province. Activists say that multiple air strikes hit the area and gave off what they say is a poisonous gas.

[09:35:12] HARLOW: Dozens of people are said to be dead, including at least ten children. Looking at these images, it's unbearable, helpless children shaking uncontrollably, crying, in a state of shock.

Our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is here with the latest.

Look, you're usually in the field reporting on all of this. You're here with us today. One thing that has struck me through and through you've said most Syrians tell you they still have faith that America can and will do something.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do. And I think they have or they had this fundamental belief that the U.S., with this moral high ground that likes to exist on with the fact that they believe that America should have been able to relate to their early requests when this was still a revolution of freedom and democracy, would somehow save them. They saw that it wasn't going to happen when Obama's red line was crossed with the gas attack that happened in Ghouta back in 2013.

But even having said that, they still believe that if the U.S. really wanted to, it could stop things like this from happening. There are cards that can be played. There are pressure points that can be applied. But we're looking at this broader geopolitical chess game and it seems like no one is willing to make the moves that's going to actually save the Syrian population.

BERMAN: Well, in fact, now the official policy of the Trump administration, we have heard from more than one official, is they no longer want to see regime change. If this is the forces of Bashar al Assad carrying out these attacks, even though the Trump administration no longer says they want to see him out. Now, the Obama administration didn't do anything about it, but at least they said they wanted to see regime change. Arwa, what's going on around Idlib province where we're seeing this attack right now?

DAMON: So you actually never had much of a let up in the bombings that were happening in Syria. The big focus was, of course, on Aleppo and what was happening there. And once people were forcibly evacuated, the bombing campaign did actually shift towards Idlib province. And you have what took place today, where it wasn't just this alleged gas attack, but there were numerous other air strikes that took place as well. It never stopped.

HARLOW: Yes.

DAMON: This bombing campaign by the Syrian regime and the Russians and the various other players that are backing Assad's forces has continued.

HARLOW: If we could pull up those images because they're so hard to see but so important to look at. These children, you've met them. You've spent time with their families. You know this hell all too well. What options do they have right now for leaving?

DAMON: Syria? They can't leave Syria unless they have already been wounded. Turkey says it has an open border policy, but in reality it allows medical cases to go through. And, yes, we are now seeing Turkish medics helping out with the casualties from this attack. But for other people, for refugees that just want to get away somewhere and feel safe, they have to go into the camp that the Turks have built inside Syria, yes, up against the Turkish border, but that doesn't afford much security.

HARLOW: No.

DAMON: We got in, in January for a couple of hours and we could hear bombings happening in the distance.

BERMAN: And, again, remember, this is as the U.S. policy, the Trump administration, is trying to change U.S. policy to reduce or ban Syrian refugees, at least for a little while. Arwa Damon, we're glad you're here with us to share your perspective

on what's going on, on a horrible day after a string of horrible days, years of horrible days in Syria. Thanks, Arwa.

HARLOW: Thank you, Arwa.

BERMAN: All right, fewer serious crimes being reported in major U.S. cities. You might think that's good news, but maybe not. We'll tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:43] HARLOW: In a major move of defiance against the Trump administration's immigration policies, the state of California is moving closer and closer to becoming a sanctuary state. The state senate passed a bill that forbids state and local law enforcement from using any state resources to enforce immigration laws.

BERMAN: Yes, the senate president pro Tempore out in California hailed the bill's passage as "a rejection of President Trump's false and cynical portrayal of undocumented residents as a lawless community." That is what he said. The bill now heads to the California State Assembly and its Democratic majority. If approved, Governor Jerry Brown would have to sign it for it to become law.

HARLOW: Meantime, President Trump declared this week National Crime Victim's Rights Week, saying the nation stands with those victims. But in some Latino communities, the new administration is bringing some concerns.

BERMAN: Yes, in Los Angeles, the city's police chief believes a drop in sexual assault reports is going on for a reason. He thinks not a good one. He believes that immigrant victims, afraid of being deported, are choosing to stay silent instead of pursuing cases of domestic abuse.

CNN's Sara Sidner has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is almost unheard of for a police chief to tell the public a decrease in crime reports may actually be a dangerous trend. But that is exactly what's happening in one of America's biggest cities.

CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE: In Los Angeles, domestic violence reports are down 10 percent in the Hispanic community, 10 percent. Imagine somebody being the victim of domestic violence and not calling the police because they're afraid that their family will be torn asunder because of immigration enforcement.

SIDNER: What's even more alarming, he said, reports of rape dropped 25 percent in the Latino community compared to the same time last year. The fear is crime isn't actually dropping but victims are too scared to report it, noting the drop came after Donald Trump, with his tough stance on immigration, took office. BECK: There's no direct nexus to it, but there is a strong

correlation.

SIDNER: But in Denver, the city attorney says she has seen a direct link. Heightened fears of deportation has so far scared away four domestic violence victims.

KRISTIN BRONSON, DENVER CITY ATTORNEY: All four were Latina and all four contacted our office to let our office know they weren't willing to proceed with the case for fear of deportation.

[09:45:00] SIDNER: The women were not so much afraid to face their alleged attacker, but instead afraid of this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you here with immigration enforcement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

SIDNER: ICE agents, in plainclothes, waiting right outside courtrooms to detain undocumented immigrants. This video, taken by a private law firm, shows their fears are not unfounded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you coming here to make an arrest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

SIDNER: Local law enforcement worried about the potential impact of ICE's presence on witnesses and victims.

BRONSON: We are worried that crime will go unpunished. And if crime is unpunished and there are no consequences, obviously crime can - can rise.

SIDNER: According to ICE policy, courts are fair game. But ICE officials say detaining people in courthouses is often a last resort, aimed at violent criminals. Still, their actions are having a chilling effect on victims, too.

SIDNER (on camera): Where are you afraid to go now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The courts. It frightens me to think that just by going there immigration will get me.

SIDNER (voice-over): This undocumented mother of two American born daughters says she used to live in terror inside of her home because of her abusive spouse before fleeing. He was never charged. But now she's even more terrified when she leaves her home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator: Every single day I think about this. My daughter said, mom, I'm afraid when you pick me up from school immigration will be there.

SIDNER (on camera): There are a couple of important things to note here. One is that statistically speaking there's only a very small bit of data because we're only talking about the first three months of the year, so hard to tell if there's a larger trend here. Secondly, ICE agents did end up in courthouses making arrests during the Obama administration, but they largely stopped the practice sometime after 2013 when there was a huge backlash after ICE agents arrested some women who had gone to court to get restraining orders. Now ICE is clearly back in courts and the clash between them (ph) and local law enforcement and victims' advocates is, too.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Wow, fascinating. Sara, thank you very much for that reporting and staying on it.

Still to come for us, it is not over, folks. Republicans ready to reboot on health care. But with all the changes, will the numbers add up? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:51:32] BERMAN: All right, moments ago, Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. One of the big topics, no doubt, the perhaps revived plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, perhaps.

HARLOW: It is alive.

BERMAN: It is alive.

HARLOW: It is alive and it is a new push. Will it be successful?

Joining us now, Stephen Moore, a senior economic analyst for us. Also a distinguished visiting fellow at Heritage and the former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign.

So nice to have you here.

Let's just jump right in -

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Sure.

HARLOW: Because what we've learned is that this meeting with VP Pence and the Freedom Caucus apparently went quite well, quite swimmingly last night, so much so that the chairman of it, Mark Meadows, is intrigued. But the reporting this morning is that part of getting to yes for them would be, essentially, Stephen, getting rid of a clause that mandates that every one of the same age is charged the same for these insurance plans. So what does that actually mean? That actually means they could charge sick folks a whole lot more. That would just do away with the protection for those with pre-existing conditions. Is that worth it to get to yes?

MOORE: Well, first of all, Poppy, they have to get to yes because this has to get done. You know I've been traveling around the country the last ten days or so since the negotiations broke down. And, you know, conservative - I talked to a lot of conservatives and they say, look, we want the best deal we can get, but Republicans have to get this done. And so your question about this issue of pre-existing conditions, you know, is a - is a tough one because, you know, you want to protect people who have genuine pre-existing conditions. But also, Poppy, you don't want to - you don't want to encourage people not to buy insurance thinking, well, once I get sick, I can just go up and sign up for insurance. So it's a - you've got to deal with that balance there.

The other big issue that's a sticking point right now, Poppy, is this issue of these insurance regulations that require everyone under Obamacare to essentially buy the same list of about 30 health services, some of which people want, some don't. You know, do you want contraceptive coverage in your health insurance plan? I, as a conservative, think everyone should be able to decide for themselves. It shouldn't be required by the government. I think that's where the Freedom Caucus people are. But - but - so they're getting very close, Poppy, but there's still a bunch of unresolved issues.

BERMAN: All right, Stephen, just so you know, we have Paul Ryan speaking right now. We're listening to him. We may have to cut to him if he starts talking about perhaps this revived plan.

You were talking about pre-existing conditions. The exact term is the community rating. It would allow states to choose whether or not they wanted to do away with the community rating. Again, it might mean that sick people have to pay more, which was one of the few things that Donald Trump, as a candidate, made clear he was going to protect. So, a, would this be a shift from what he promised, and, b, you know, you said you've been traveling the country talking to Republicans. A lot of moderate Republicans who said they were going to be no-votes -

MOORE: That's true.

BERMAN: This is exactly the kind of thing that might turn them off, isn't it?

MOORE: Well, you're right. This is a very delicate balancing act right now -

HARLOW: Yes.

MOORE: That President Trump and Vice President Pence have to do. Every time they move a little bit to the right to accommodate the Freedom Caucus, they may lose a vote, you're right, and the Tuesday Group, which is the more moderates.

But on this issue of community rating and - you know, I think the issue really for - again, for somebody who's a conservative like me is, you know, if you and I have very different lifestyles and you smoke a lot and you drink a lot and you're overweight and you don't exercise, and I live a healthy lifestyle, you know, should you and I pay the same insurance premiums? And I say no. I mean it's very similar to auto insurance. If you - if, you know, I get into a lot of accidents and you don't, I should probably have to pay more insurance than you do. So that's the issue is whether people should be sort of held personally responsible for their wellness and for, you know, the lifestyles they lead, because lifestyle does have a lot to do with your health. [09:55:14] HARLOW: Stephen Moore, before we let you go.

MOORE: Yes.

HARLOW: As we continue to listen to this Republican conference here, let me just get your take on tax reform because, OK, apparently now they're back to health care, but a few days ago it was no more health care, just tax reform. So on tax reform, which Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said, you know, they want it done by August and that's -

MOORE: Yes.

HARLOW: Really, really soon for something so complex. Here's the thing. Only he really is in place to get this done because none of the 27 other political appointees to Treasury that need to be there to get it done have been confirmed.

MOORE: I know.

HARLOW: And don't say it's because the Dems are blocking their confirmation, because the president has only nominated six of them. Can they even get this done without that staffing?

MOORE: Yes, I think they can. It makes it tougher, no question, Poppy, and I'd like to see those, you know, people being appointed and being confirmed as quickly as possible.

But, look, I think this is going to have to be done at the very highest level, not just with Steve Mnuchin, the secretary of Treasury, but also, you know, the president has to be very involved. I think that's one of the lessons, Poppy, that Republicans learned from the health care debate is, get the president very involved. He has to be very knowledgeable about it. And the answer to your question is, Poppy, yes, I do think they can get this done by August. I think they're coming to a pretty quick agreement, especially on the business tax cuts. Get them - get those rates down so we can - we can have a pro-business and pro-jobs tax code.

BERMAN: Stephen Moore, great to have you with us. I get the sense that maybe he knows some stuff that's going on in health care. We're going to have to have you back to talk a little bit more.

HARLOW: I think - I think Stephen Moor knows all.

BERMAN: I think he's connected right now.

All right, we are watching - you're watching that Republican House leadership right now, they're right side along Paul Ryan. They're discussing what went on behind closed doors. Did they talk about health care? Are they any closer to a deal? We'll check back in, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:59:56] BERMAN: All right, live pictures we're going to show you of House Speaker Paul Ryan. He is talking about health care at a news conference right now. Let's take it.

REP. PAUL RYAN ( R), HOUSE SPEAKER: In a way that can get everybody to 216.