Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Trump's Agenda On The Line In Georgia Special Election; Best Kept Secret In D.C.: GOP's Health Care Plan; New Questions Over Possibly Undisclosed Flynn Trips; Senate Dem: "Signals" Show Flynn Cooperating With FBI; Anger Over Death Of Student Released By North Korea; Trump Meets With President Of Ukraine. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 20, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. A critical 24 hours for a president who is growing more frustrated, more agitated by the day. First, his agenda and his popularity being tested in the biggest race of his presidency so far.
Plus, it's the best kept secret in Washington right now, it appears. Senate Republicans under new pressure to reveal their health care bill. Negotiated in secret, behind closed doors.
Also one senator in the know, says there are signals that Michael Flynn has been secretly cooperating with the FBI and the pressure mounting also on President Trump after the death of American student, Otto Warmbier, who Senator John McCain says was murdered by North Korea.
All of that, we have ahead. But first, the race is close, like really close. Like we don't know, if anyone tells you they do know who is going to win, they don't know. That's how close. The stakes couldn't be higher.
Right now, Georgia voters are casting their ballots to fill the congressional seat long held by Tom Price now the secretary of Health and Human Services. The special election race is more than just a choice between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Both parties are all in on this one. Democrats, this is a referendum on the Trump presidency, which could explain why it's become the most expensive House race in U.S. history.
Let's go CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She's at Marietta, Georgia, where the polls are opening until 7:00 tonight. All right, Kaylee, what are you hearing and seeing? Where do things stand there right now?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, no matter who wins, this seat tonight, a seat that's been held by a Republican for more than four years, Ossoff and Handel supporters both tell me that all the ads that all this money have bought will finally be off their air waves and they are looking forward to that.
In recent days, things have taken a particularly nasty and disturbing turn on the air waves as a conservative political action group put out an ad that linked the left and therefore, Jon Ossoff, with the shooting that happened in Washington at that Republican congressional baseball practice. Jon Ossoff responded to that ad on NEW DAY this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: What can you say? The man is fighting for his life. It's got no place in the political attack ad. This is exactly what Americans are sick and tired of. It's exactly why the folks in D.C. have clearly lost the plot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: Karen Handel's campaign denounced this ad as well. They had nothing to do with it. They have not gone so far as to ask that it be taken down. You will hear folks on our air waves debating the national implications of this race.
But both candidates, for their part, have tried their hardest to remind voters in this district that their focus is on them. They want to keep the discussion local, as Karen Handel will tell you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: What I hear on the campaign trail is not about the national implications. It's about who is best suited to represent them in Washington, to be their next congressman. It's me, someone who has the experience and relationships in this community. My husband and I have lived here almost 25 years. That's longer than my opponent, pretty much, has been alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: Now, for the record, Karen Handel has lived in the district for 25 years, Ossoff is 30 years old, but we get her point. A distinct difference between the choice that voters here in suburban Atlanta have to make today -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And they will decide it. No more guessing once the polls close, tonight. At least we think. Stand by. Great to see you, Kaylee, thank you very much.
So no matter who wins that race tonight, they will definitely and immediately get thrown into the brewing battle on Capitol Hill right now, what to do about Obamacare. A short time from now Vice President Mike Pence is set to meet with Senate Republicans over lunch to try and hammer things out there.
To this point, no one really knows what is in the Senate version and also no one really knows what is not in the Senate version. Why? Because Senate Republican leaders are keeping the talks behind closed doors, infuriating Democrats. And keeping even some Republicans in the dark, but the clock is ticking and some things have to give. CNN's Phil Mattingly is live on Capitol Hill with the very latest here. So Phil, there is a lot of what we don't know, of course. What do we know today?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of important things, Kate, first and foremost, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made very clear to his conference behind closed doors, he still wants to have a vote as soon as next week, actually, he wants that vote by next week, likely on Thursday is tentatively what we are hearing right now.
So what does that actually mean? That's nine days away. Well, they need to finalize a proposal. That's something they are working on now. You mentioned that all senators lunch with Vice President Mike Pence coming up shortly. They will also have another meeting tomorrow, all Republican senators.
These are crucial meetings where they try to hash out the final details of this proposal. Once they finalize the proposal, they have to send that to the Congressional Budget Office.
Once that is done, senators are expected to go home for the weekend, have details of what is actually in the bill and then come back next week and vote. The CBO score likely to come in the middle of next week. This is the kind of best case scenario here.
[11:05:03]But I think Kate, the real interesting question here is, what's actually in the bill? Policy matters. This is one sixth of the economy and I think when you talk to rank and file Republican senators, they will acknowledge they are frustrated with the process. They don't actually know what's in and what's out.
But here is what we do know right now when it comes to the structure of what this bill is going to include as it compares to its House counterpart, the tax credit itself, the subsidies that Americans will have to pay for health care in the private market will be more robust.
They are going to try and add more money to that to address lower income individuals, older Americans as well. What we also know is a waiver in the House bill and the price protections of pre-existing conditions called community rating. That will be out.
Senators have made very clear, that is not in play right now. The big outstanding issues right now and there are a lot of them, obviously the size of the tax credit, the Medicaid expansion from the Affordable Care Act, how quickly that phases out.
Even kind of how Medicaid funding is actually worked out, what it's tacked on to going forward in the states. All of those things are open questions right now.
Kate, I think an interesting element here is this is not a homogenous conference ideologically when it comes to health care. These are very, very significant issues internally, ideologically that they simply haven't figured out yet. The moment is now to come to solutions on that, to come to agreements on that. If they can't, all this timelines while it might look good for Senate leaders up to this point, they are all for naught. The big question becomes, can they actually get this done all together -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Can they get it done, but as you lay out and you know more about this than most, Phil, I mean, you laid out perfectly, it's not just getting a bill out there, it's then explaining it in English to people on what is going to be different tomorrow than what they are dealing with today. That takes time. That takes analysis. That time may not be what folks have before they are required to vote on this one. We shall see. Great to see you, Phil. Thank you.
All of this while Congress continues to push forward with the many Russia investigations and new wrinkles today. Democrats in the House are now pushing for more information about how former National Security adviser, Michael Flynn may have misled officials about two trips to the Middle East, citing hotel that doesn't exist and a conference that may not have happened according to these Democrats.
Also Senate judiciary leaders say their committee could start exploring the issue of obstruction of justice on the part of President Trump. A lot on this one.
CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz is looking into all of this. So Shimon, on top of this, the special council is set to head to Capitol Hill tomorrow. What is the very latest here?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, that's right. We learned that he is going to head, this is Bob Mueller, who is overseeing this investigation now. He's going to head to the Hill, interestingly enough to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee, which wanted to hear from Comey, about these allegations of possible obstruction.
So tomorrow, Mueller is set to meet with them perhaps to talk to them about what he is doing, you know, it could be to sort of -- you know, the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to look. They have agreed that they will look into some of this obstruction.
And it could be Mueller's way to say, hey, maybe back off a little bit from this investigation. He's very much still in the beginning stages of the investigation.
Now, as to Flynn, we have more meetings, more overseas trips that reportedly have not been reported on his security form when he was -- when he joined the White House. Seemed to be two trips he took Saudi Arabia where he claimed he stayed at a hotel, which the Democrats say exist.
The other one, it seems to be in June, where he also did not list what he was doing there. It was a meeting for some nuclear energy deal that he was sort of working on between the U.S. and Russia. Again, this letter was sent to his attorneys yesterday to try to get more information about these overseas trips. BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Republicans on that very same committee, not on board with the request. It's coming specifically only from the Democrats that do something to how much weight it carries when it's sent to someone like Michael Flynn. Regardless a lot still happening on that front. Great to see you, Shimon. Thank you so much.
So speaking of Michael Flynn, could this key target become some kind of a star witness? One top senator is not floating the idea that Flynn is now working with the FBI. That's Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If you draw conclusions as a prosecutor about what we can see from the Flynn investigation, all the signals are suggesting that he's already cooperating with the FBI and may have been for some time.
First of all, they had a debt to rights on a felony false statement for the statement that they took from him in the White House about his Kislyak conversations.
Second, Comey reported that one of the things the FBI does with cooperators is get them to go up and clean up areas of noncompliance. Flynn will never be hired by a foreign government again went back and cleaned up the foreign agent registration filings.
[11:10:05]Third, all of the reporting on the eastern district of Virginia subpoenas is one hop away from Flynn. He's like the hole in a doughnut of subpoenas.
And finally, one of the more talkative people in Trumpland is going to be dead silent. That's what prosecutors strongly encourage cooperating witnesses to do. So this would be just another bit of leverage for the prosecutors to make sure that he was cooperating and giving truthful testimony in order to avoid lengthy imprisonment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: That is the position of Sheldon Whitehouse. Joining me now to discuss this is CNN legal analyst and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's former assistant at the Justice Department, Michael Zeldin is here, and also former CIA operative, Mike Baker is here as well. Guys, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.
So Michael, we were listening to Sheldon Whitehouse. He said it a couple of times. This wasn't a one off. He said to Wolf and he also said it again this morning, his theory that he thinks that Michael Flynn is now working with the FBI. Do you agree with Whitehouse's theory on this?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to know. Flynn surely has the most exposure. He's got the eastern district of Virginia, which Mueller is now going to take over, which is an investigation into his involvement with Turkey and failing to register into the foreign agent registration act. That's a pretty mature investigation.
They have been subpoenaing records for quite a long time. Mueller will take it over. Then he's got Mueller himself who's got the Russia collusion on the table. Now he's got Cummings and the SF-86 lies on the forms to get a clearance.
So he has three big legal problems. So in some sense, he is the most logical person to become a witness if he's got a story to tell.
BOLDUAN: Remember, that's -- when you say he's got a story to tell, that was the statement that came from his attorney. It's like this is a man who got a story to tell. He wants immunity that was not offered by the congressional committees, immunity. If he is cooperating, if he is cooperating with the FBI, what does that signal?
ZELDIN: Well, again, it depends on what he has to say. If he has information about collusion, then it signals that this is going to be a very big and long and torturous investigation. If he's got no information about collusion, if it's just bits and pieces on the fringes of, you know, maybe some counter intelligence investigation where Russia was doing this or doing that, then it's not so much. Does he have a person to say this person did something wrong?
BOLDUAN: You assume that if he's got to work with the FBI, he's got to have something.
ZELDIN: That's exactly right. He was immunized. They don't know what he's got.
BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. Mike, on the other issue that Shimon was kind of the leading us now, Democrats want more information. They are digging into two more trips that they say are undisclosed or improperly disclosed on his security clearance form.
Two trips to the Middle East, a hotel that doesn't exist, apparently, and a conference that they don't have evidence that actually went on. Is it just the lack of disclosure? You know, these forms that we are talking about. Is it the lack of disclosure or concerns about the nature of the trips?
MIKE BAKER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, first and foremost, it's reporting accurately on, as Michael pointed out on this 86 form. You know, I've seen this in the past with people who failed to understand the importance of being truthful and accurate to the degree they can on these forms. It's fairly simple process. If you are not, it's like lying on an SCC form, right? I mean, it's a --
BOLDUAN: Don't do it.
BAKER: Don't do it. It's clear that this is a problem. If he's going to get banged up as Michael pointed out, I mean, this is an area that he's got trouble. His lawyer publicly coming out and talking about immunity and saying he has a story to tell.
To me, OK, fine, that's what he would expect a good lawyer to do, but I suspect that he's probably over egging the pudding on the story that he has to tell.
BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this, Mike, so you know these forms. Is there a reasonable explanation for a former general to take trips like this and a reasonable explanation for him to not report it correctly on his security clearance?
BAKER: Have I seen this before in the past? Absolutely. Look, you can't swing a dead cat in Washington without hitting a former military or political person not who has now crossed over on the commercial side.
Some have a better sense of understanding is how to proceed once they get into the private sector and do these things. I have seen people not being accurate in the filling out of their forms because, for whatever reason, they don't understand it.
I'm not saying there's no there "there." I'm saying have I seen it in the past? Yes. It's a point of jeopardy, there's no doubt about it. Again, we keep going back to this immunity comment because I find it fascinating.
You wonder, to what degree it's a signaling over to the White House to say, wow, we are looking for immunity so you might want to think about a pardon, which I don't think is going to happen because the political cost is super high on something like that. I said super high. I can't believe that.
BOLDUAN: Don't say you don't think anything is going to happen. I would also recommend you against saying that.
BOLDUAN: Never, ever, never, never, never. Great to see you both. Thank you very, very much.
[11:15:11]Lawmakers lashing out over the death of American Otto Warmbier right now and calling on the president to hold North Korea accountable. What are the president's options right now?
Plus, the Republicans plan to overhaul one-sixth of the U.S. economy top secret right now, it seems. How Democrats are trying to force Republicans to reveal the secret health care plan and what it means going forward?
One day after the White House banned audio and video of press briefings, an announcement about today's briefing. The press secretary is looking for his own replacement at the moment. We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: We could hear more soon from authorities about the death of college student, Otto Warmbier. The Hamilton County Coroner's Office in Ohio is investigating right now and is expected to update the public as soon as today. You'll remember, of course, 22-year-old Warmbier died yesterday, less than a week after he was brought back home from North Korea in a coma. There are still so many questions about what put him in such a horrible state.
[11:20:02]He was detained in January of last year, sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years hard labor for tearing down a political poster in a hotel he was staying at.
Joining me now with more on this is CNN national correspondent, Miguel Marquez, for much more on this. Miguel, what do you have?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a heart breaking situation. The Warmbier family was hoping to have their son home in good shape. They found out last week that he was in fact coming home, but was nearly comatic. The young man suffering brain damage to much of his brain say doctors and there was very little they could do.
The family clearly, having to make a very, very difficult choice. Part of the statement that they released yesterday when this news broke was that, they said, "Unfortunately, the awful, torturous mistreatment of our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today."
Senators McCain and Marco Rubio, two very powerful Republican voices called this murder. The administration stopping short of that, saying, that he was imprisoned and that President Trump saying this was brutal torture by them, but not calling it murder -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Miguel, thanks so much for that update. Really appreciate it.
So the Trump administration says it will hold North Korea accountable. The question is how. Former CIA operative, Mike Baker, is back with me on this. John McCain calls it murder, Mike, by the North Korean regime. Do you agree with him?
BAKER: It's hard to see how it's not. I mean, what are you going to do? You are going to parse words and say it's wrongful imprisonment, cruel mistreatment of a prisoner, I mean, I don't know what else to call it.
You know, he attempted, according to their story to take a propaganda poster from the hotel he was staying after being there for a while. People around the states would think that's a college prank, taking a poster off a wall. He's dead because of it.
Now, I don't think we need to get too wrapped up in what we call his death. The question becomes, what do we do about it? What is the response? When it's a pariah state. We have sanctioned them almost to the point of there are no other steps we can take in sanctioning them.
So what do we do? We are not going to do a military strike. That's not a proportional response. Do we pressure the Chinese in some fashion that we haven't already perhaps? I mean, as we talked in the past, that's about the only leverage we can hope to have on eventual behavior change in North Korea.
BOLDUAN: Former State Department spokesman for Obama, Admiral Edward John Kirby, he was in the State Department when Warmbier was captured. He was there when all of this kind went down. He had this to say about, the question of -- the Trump administration deserves credit, of course, President Trump for bringing Otto home. What did the Trump administration do differently than the Obama administration did? What was the difference? Listen to what Admiral Kirby had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I do think that the revelation of Otto's physical condition and the urgency that it demanded had a lot to do with this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do you think it was just that, the deterioration of his physical condition?
BAKER: Well, I think that had a large role to play. Once the North Koreans realized how quickly he was heading down hill or was on the last days, they did not want him to die in North Korea.
BOLDUAN: That actually was -- maybe it's a stupid question. Why would North Korea release him? Let's hold that question for a second. Joining me right now let's watch President Trump meeting with the Ukrainian president in the oval office. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Great honor to be with President Poroshenko of Ukraine, a place that we've all been very much involved in. You have been seeing it and everybody has been reading about it. We've had some very, very good discussions. It's going to continue throughout the day and I think a lot of progress has been made and it's a great honor to have you, Mr. President. Thank you. Thank you very much. Would you like to say something?
PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINE: That's a great honor and a great pleasure to be together with you. (Inaudible) supporter and strategic partner. We really fight for freedom and democracy and with a very strong support in the security and defense, support of our reforms, support of my 45 (inaudible) nation, of the country who is the biggest in the European continent.
And absolutely confident that Ukraine is a story of success. I am proud to have you, Mr. President, and the United States as a co- sponsor of this story of success. We are very much admire of your leadership, your very effective steps.
[11:25:06]Because today there are two historic dates, five months of your presidency and three years when we launch the peace plan of this nation and (inaudible) effective coordination of the peace for the nation (inaudible). PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. It's a great honor. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you have --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's a total disgrace what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen, and, frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the result could have been a lot different. I think he should be been brought home that same day. What happened to Otto is a disgrace. I spoke with his family. They are incredible what they've gone through, but he should have been brought home a long time ago. Thank you all very much.
BOLDUAN: The president there in a meeting with the Ukrainian president was asked about Otto. It's a disgrace what happened. He says he should have been brought home that same day, a lot sooner. Why would North Korea release him? If he was in such bad condition for so long. They said he was in a coma since March, 2016. Why release him earlier, if at all?
BAKER: First of all, North Korea seems -- doesn't seem to have any trouble killing their own people, right, or others that they take, but not U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens that have been detained in the past have been essentially bargaining chips. The goal is to keep them in good health and eventually you get something in return. That's been the pattern.
I suspect when his health went downhill, I honestly believe they didn't understand it. They didn't realize how bad it was going to be. At a certain point, they finally made a decision and I suspect there was a renewed effort with the new administration, it would be speculation on my part.
But I suspect that there was a more aggressive posture taken in an effort to try to bring him home. But I think the willingness to release him at this point was purely because the North Koreans realized he was dying, they didn't want it to happen on their turf. Again, it's how you deal with this now, what's the response.
BOLDUAN: It is a disgrace what has happened. That is what we have heard. The latest we are hearing from the president. What that means to North Korea going forward, we will see. Three Americans are still being held in North Korea as we speak. Mike, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Senate Democrats are putting in a last ditch effort right now to slow things down as Republicans work behind closed doors on their health care bill. But without control of the Senate, what can the Democrats really do? We are going to speak with one Democrat in the middle of this battle. That's coming up.