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Trump Slams Obama Administration Over Handling of Russia Election Hack; Does Trump Acknowledging Russia's Attempt at Interference Change Anything?; Interview with Georgia Sen. Michael Williams; Loss of Prevention Fund Can Cost American Lives and Dollars; V.A. Still Unreliable With Regard To Wait Times; Restaurant Owner in Orangeburg Wants to Take Down Confederate Flag. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 24, 2017 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:14] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And, you know, what? Sometimes, on a Saturday, you just need to smile, need a little laugh. Here is yours for the day.

It's the music. It's the music that does it. That's Zola the gorilla. Some playtime with the Dallas zoo there channeling its inner splash dance. Look at him go. I love it. Victor has not one thing to say about this, not one.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Nope. Next hour starts now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): A new report reveals Russian President Vladimir Putin gave direct orders to defeat Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump as President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is as close to a bombshell internal coup, if you will.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election and he did nothing about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: it's not like we had an immediate clear snapshot of what the Russians were up to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no evidence of collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another republican senator says he cannot support the health care bill.

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurances away from tens of millions of Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cuts to Medicaid are very specific and they're the most dramatic.

TRUMP: I think that they'll probably get there. We'll have to see. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY weekend, with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: Good morning, to you. President Trump juggling two big issues this weekend, Russian hacking allegations now pointing directly to the Kremlin and the vote on his signature health care bill that seems to be drowning, I don't know, in the senate, some say, at least, struggling.

In about two weeks, the president could be standing face-to-face with the Russian president at the G20 meetings in Germany.

PAUL: Well, now, President Trump also slamming the Obama administration as this stunning "Washington Post" report suggests the Obama administration knew about Moscow's attempt to hack the U.S. elections in July but they didn't do enough to stop them and, in the meantime, more skeptical senators weighing in on the republican health care plan.

There is the docket of all of the faces or many of them, right now, a fifth GOP Senator, Dean Heller, come at -- has come out against it. In fact, let's listen to him for a moment here.


HELLER: I'm telling you right now, I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes interests away from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.

You have to protect Medicaid expansion states. That's what I want. Make sure that we're taken care off here in the State of Nevada.


BLACKWELL: Let's begin with CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's following the latest on the Russia investigation for us at the White House this morning. Ryan, good morning.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor, good morning to you and President Trump seizing on this "Washington Post" report that outlines exactly when and where President Obama learned about Russia's attempt to intervene in the American election.

This "Post" report is a bit of a bombshell. It details in specificity the time when President Obama was informed by the CIA that Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular were attempting to try and intervene in the election and help Donald Trump.

Now, there's one administration official quoted in this report who described the administration's response as sort of a choke, that they choked and didn't do enough to stop Russia from intervening in the election and not surprisingly President Trump agrees. Listen to what he tells Fox in an interview set to air tomorrow.


TRUMP: Well, I just heard today, for the first time, that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election and he did nothing about it but nobody wants to talk about that.

That the CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even -- you know, before the election and I hardly see it. It's an amazing thing to me, you know, in other words, the question is if you have the information, why didn't he do something about it? He should've done something about it.


NOBLES: Well, it's not true that President Obama didn't do anything. He did do something. He specifically confronted Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the G20 in September, right before the election.

He also did some things like expelling some diplomats from a compound in Maryland but he certainly didn't go as far as some of the recommendations that were given to him and Obama administration officials are saying that the simple reason behind that was that the damage had already been done and that President Obama was very concerned about the political ramifications. That it would look, as though, he was helping Hillary Clinton in the election.

Now, it's also important to point out that President Trump himself was very skeptical of the reports that Russia was involved in the election. He pushed back on it a number of times as a candidate and even after he was elected.

He suggested that perhaps China may be partially responsible. He even said that the hack could've been accomplished by a 400-pound man in his bedroom. So, the idea now that the White House is finally acknowledging the fact that Russia was involved in this, is something to keep in mind as you take back and look at all of the criticism that President Trump has for President Obama at this particular point. Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ryan Nobles for us at the White House. Ryan, thanks.

PAUL: Now, with us, Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times," and Page Pate, CNN legal analyst in criminal defense and constitutional attorney. Thank you all for being with us.

Page, I want to ask you, first and foremost, about something Ryan just said and here is the tweet from President Trump just about 11 hours ago. He said, "Just out, the Obama administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it, why?"

The fact that the President now seems to be acknowledging that there was some sort of Russian interference, does that change anything when it comes to the investigation into collusion? PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Christi, I think it does. We now

have the first element of what someone -- a prosecutor, a special council could prove was unlawful interference with the election.

We now have evidence and, apparently, the Trump administration and Trump himself agrees that Russia attempted to influence the election and to benefit Trump while doing it.

So, we know now that happened. We know now that Trump, at least, was aware of it after the fact. He's admitted that. The only question now is will the special counsel find evidence of collusion.

Now, collusion is not a legal term. It's really a conspiracy, aiding and abetting but did anyone in the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team do anything to assist the Russians either before or after the fact? That could be a prosecutable case.

PAUL: OK, questions to about whether the president may have a point here. Let's listen to Jeh Johnson who spoke with the House Intel Committee. He, of course, the former homeland security secretary that spoke to the House Intel Committee about why they didn't come out with the information when they learned it.


JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The more important issue, frankly, was that there was a very powerful foreign actor trying to put his thumb on the scale of our democracy.

The question now for us which is why I was voluntarily willing to go down to Washington this week to testify is what are we going to do about it? What next?

Our election infrastructure in this country is exposed. There are vulnerabilities that came to light last year. So, what are we going to do about that for '18, for '20 and frankly, the current administration, the current president through his rhetoric is kind of sending the signals that this is something that will be tolerated and, so, you know, powerful actors like the Russians they look at what they think will happen if they do something and we'd rather make this kind of behavior cost prohibitive.


PAUL: OK, we'll get to that in a minute. That wasn't the (INAUDIBLE) I was talking about. This is, he said to the House Intel Committee, one of the candidates was predicting that the election would be rigged. So, we were concerned that by making the statement that could be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.

Sarah, is there a problem here for the reputation of President Obama? Should they have done more, should they have done something differently?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: It's impossible to know, obviously, whether the Obama administration had done something different, if the outcome could've been avoided but clearly, Jeh Johnson is right at the time.

President Trump, then candidate Trump was going on and on about how the election would be rigged. How the Obama administration, the democrats were going to fix the results to ensure that Hillary Clinton won.

Then if a few weeks before election day if you have the sitting President of the United States coming out and drawing more attention than he did to this -- questions at the time that we knew nothing about that Russia was potentially meddling in the election.

I think, that would've set off something of a panic, particularly, among republicans who may be already had this underlying fear that the election was going to be somehow illegitimate because of democratic meddling.

So, I think, the Obama administration at the time was operating off the assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and that maybe this could be something they could focus on at a later date.

PAUL: A lot of people, Lynn, wondering, oh, OK, certainly, there could be questions about how the Obama administration handled it but that doesn't negate the current President, President Trump, from doing something about it to stop it from happening in 2018 and 2020.

Any indication that there is something, some, sort of, plan in the White House to try to stop this?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, just -- the answer is no and just think of the sound bite you used a few moments ago, where Trump is saying, well, what -- yes, if he knew about it, he should've done something about it.

OK. Well, then, sir, we toss your words back at you. So, what are you going to do about it because we know that the state voter files in many states were looked at by an outside player? We know now that there was Russian intrusion in the campaign. We know that your administration and many players in it are very interested, friendly talk to Russians.

You even had the foreign minister and the U.S. ambassador from Russia here in your Oval Office. So, there are many issues involving Russia, outside in the investigation that President Trump could be looking at and, yes, one of them could be putting in some kind of policy, some kind of statement, some kind of further punishment to Russians to make sure it doesn't happen again.

We have not seen any of it. In fact, there's been talk of lifting the narrow sanctions that President Obama put in at near the end of his term. So, you have a very good -- you know, there's a very good point there. What are you going to do, President Trump, now that you have this on your watch?

PAUL: And, he may be confronted with that very thing next month at the G20 Summit when he will most likely, at some point, Sarah, be face-to-face with President Putin. How would he approach President Putin on this topic and will there be some substantial conversations about Syria, about Ukraine, about hacking?

WESTWOOD: We don't know yet whether Putin and Trump are going to have more than just a passing conversation when they do meet at the G20.

The White House hasn't signaled the type of interaction they're going to put on the books between the two leaders. Certainly, Trump will face tremendous pressure at home to confront Putin on all of those issues that you mentioned.

It's not clear that he will because he ran on this platform of normalizing relations with the Kremlin but, clearly, this issue of Russian meddling has become so politicized and it's not just Trump's fault, democrats had played a huge role in that but the Trump administration has to walk this fine line and, maybe, embracing the fact that Russians meddled, embracing the fact that this is the subject of multiple criminal and counterintelligence reviews and not accepting the underlying premise that the Russians potentially handed him a victory that his campaign allegedly colluded with Russian actors. That's a difficult balance and I don't think the White House has quite found it yet.

PAUL: All righty. Sarah Westwood, Lynn Sweet, Page Pate, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today.

WESTFOOD: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Well, there's a desperate search underway, right now, in China where more than 120 people are missing after a landslide.

Now, this started near the top of a mountain and buried part of a village in Central China. Look at the video. Emergency responses have been activated and the Chinese President called for an all-out search to find anyone, potentially, buried under all this mud.

There were 800 people there digging through all of this. They were able to save one couple and their newborn just a few hours ago.

PAUL: Up next, a republican senator says, it's a, quote, "Lie, that the GOP healthcare bill will lower premiums." Tough words adding to some tough math this morning for GOP leaders looking to lock in votes before next week's decision.

We're digging into the policy and the politics of it all.

BLACKWELL: Also, a confederate flag is flying over a restaurant in South Carolina and the business owner cannot take it down, although, it is dividing his community.


PAUL: Seventeen minutes past the hour right now. Good to have you with us.

Less than a week to go now before the senate hopes to vote on their bill to replace Obamacare. The GOP leaders have a real uphill climb to get these votes because there are now five republican senators who say they just cannot support it, at least, in its current form.

Take a look at the faces there, some expressing concern, some outright opposing. GOP leaders can only afford here to lose two members of their caucus in order for the bill to pass next week's potential vote. Now, the latest to voice opposition, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, a blue state republican, democrats are targeting to unseat in 2018. He talked about his problems with this bill. Take a listen.


HELLER: I'm telling you right now, I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans. You have to protect Medicaid expansion states. That's what I want. Make sure that we're taken care off here in the State of Nevada.


BLACKWELL: All right, joining me now, Georgia State Senator Michael Williams, an early supporter of the President (INAUDIBLE) his campaign. Good to have you this morning.

SEN. MICHAEL WILLIAMS (R), GEORGIA: It's a pleasure to be here.

BLACKWELL: What's your response to what you heard from Senator Heller?

WILLIAMS: First of all, we need to support the President. You know, he campaigned on repealing or replacing Obamacare and that's what the American people expect and that's what they want.

So, we need to get out there and support the president and support this bill and get his bill passed.

BLACKWELL: OK, but what expense? Senator Heller says this is not going to drop premiums for people who need that reduction in premium costs. Do you dispute that at all?

WILLIAMS: Definitely, I dispute that. Again, I haven't read the complete bill but we have to go out there, make sure that the people can afford their premiums. I know -- I've experienced an increase in premiums with Obamacare and several other people haven't and we can't allow it to happen.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's put up the slate of senators who are either no right now or expressing serious concern. There are eight here. The latest says we just played Senator Heller of Nevada.

There is also this ad campaign that's coming from super PAC that supports President Trump. American -- America first policy is their first week coming out here, hold Senator Dean Heller accountable for turning his back on voters after promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Is this appropriate for the party to go after a vulnerable republican who's up in 2018?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Politics is tough, it's rough, it's a contact sport and, again, we need people out there that are willing to stand up, just defend the principles that they believe in and, again, we have to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Not only that, but we need to change the entire health care system in our country. We have too many elected officials that are in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies as well as insurance companies. So, if you're not willing to stand up and fight what you believe in then we need to --

BLACKWELL: What's the impact of the CBO score that comes out next week?

WILLIAMS: The impact of this --

BLACKWELL: CBO score that comes out next week.

WILLIAMS: I'm not aware of what that score is. I don't know.

BLACKWELL: It hasn't come out yet but from the House, when it came out, there were 23 million over an additional ten years who would be removed from health care, which many people think kind of sunk the house plan. What role will it play for the senate, do you believe?

WILLIANS: Well, again, you just have to talk about people that are not insured right now in our country?

BLACKWELL: An additional number of people who would lose insurance because of the plan that the republicans had put forward?

WILLIAMS: Well, let's look at the plan that Obamacare put forward. I mean, how many people lost their insurance coverage, couldn't afford their insurance coverage?

I don't believe a lot of things that come up -- that come out in response to people losing their insurance. I mean, it happens but it -- I'm just extremely frustrated with the political environment that we find ourselves in.

We have too many people that are not concerned and worried about their -- the people that are having to pay these premiums. Again, I just -- I don't mean to get off target a little but I had a son that had an accident not long ago, major accident.

He's gone through probably 12 surgeries. My insurance premiums have gone up over the years and we are stuck with tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills. My wife is having a baby next week and I have no idea what that is going to cost us because of the way these insurance companies run their business and just go after profits instead of people and it's wrong.

BLACKWELL: But, let me ask you about -- first, congratulations on the baby but let me ask you about this, if the senate bill goes forward, then states would be allowed to determine what exactly these insurance plans will be able to cover.

They don't have to cover the essential health benefits that the Affordable Care Act require them to, so, if you require -- if you relied on some of these programs, it's a good chance that your wife's pregnancy would not be covered.

WILLIAMS: Well, again, you're touch --

BLACKWELL: If states had the option to remove them.

WILLIAMS: You're touching a very important point and to me that is the states and allowing these insurance companies to compete across states. Right now, when you have insurance companies, you can only, you know, have certain plans in various states around the country.

We need to open that up and allow for a free market society in our country because, right now, how many states only have one insurance company in their state right now? That they're pulling out and they're pulling out.

Until we get free market and competition in our states, the insurance companies and insurance plans, we're not going to see the benefits that we need.

BLACKWELL: So, you're a new father, should these insurance companies be required to, in these policies, cover pregnancy, cover obstetrics?

WILLIAMS: Well, yes. If I buy a policy that covers my wife's pregnancy, obviously, it should cover it.

BLACKWELL: No, but I'm saying, should they be required to cover it? You -- when you married your wife, you may not have known that she was going to get pregnant when you got the insurance policy but should they be required? Should there be essentially a list of required benefits that every plan should have?

WILLIAMS: No, I don't believe that should be the case.

I don't think that the government should come in and say that you have to get insured and it's all of these requirements. I don't think that's right. Again, you allow the free market to work.

Capitalism that free market society has helped billions of people come out of poverty over the past, how many years since it's been here, in our country and we need to allow that healthcare system.

BLACKWELL: Quickly, do you think it will pass at the senate?

WILLIAMS: I hope so.

BLACKWELL: OK. All right, Senator Michael Williams, thanks so much.

WILLIAMS: All right, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Up next, the former director of the CDC will join us with his take on the republican healthcare bill. PAUL: Also coming up, years after a scandal rocked the Department of

Veterans Affairs, President Trump signs new reforms into law. How's he making sure the veterans get the care that they need? Those details are ahead, stay close.


PAUL: The full plate for President Trump this week. He is taking aim at former President Obama for one thing, questioning why President Obama didn't act on the Russia information, based on a "Washington Post" report that links Vladimir Putin directly to the hackings and says President Obama knew about it as early as July of last year.

We asked former KGB spy Jack Barksy if he believed that it's possible that Vladimir Putin directed it.


JACK BARSKY, FORMER SPY, KGB: This is a very secret operation, right?

We're talking about -- we're doing something here to destabilize another country, you want to keep that secret. That in and of itself is difficult, when you do work in secrecy, the fewer people that know about it, the better.

And in my case, there were about five people that knew about my identity and the more people you involve in this kind of an operation, you have to have more people involved. The more likely it is that a real leak will come out and we don't have one yet.


PAUL: Also, the president dealing with GOP vote -- maybe, voting we should say, on their healthcare plan in the senate on Thursday.

The numbers are not in their favor as of this morning, now a fifth GOP senator threatening to vote no now.

BLACKWELL: All right, joining me now, the Former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden. Good to have you with us this morning.


BLACKWELL: So, your opposition to the bill, kind of, focuses on a specific fund. It's the prevention and public health fund, about 12 percent of CDC's overall funding that would be cut.

FRIEDEN: Well, that's one aspect but the big question here is a simple one. It's, will Americans be healthier? From a public health doctor's perspective, that's the most important issue.

[08:30:05] We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that under the Affordable Care Act, because of the CDC data, more than 20 million Americans have health coverage. That saves lives. If they lose coverage, that will cost American lives.

And one aspect that hasn't gotten the attention of others is this prevention fund, which is very important. If we lose that fund, there will be more infections, more cancers, more heart attacks, more strokes that could have been prevented and will cost American lives and American dollars.

BLACKWELL: Also, we were talking during the break, that you said if people lose their insurance coverage, talking about that portion of the bill -- and we haven't seen the CBO score what -- how many potentially could lose their coverage -- that would cost the country as well?

FRIEDEN: These aren't just about numbers or people, this is people's lives. The best available scientific data suggests that for every million people who gain health insurance, between 1,000 and 5,000 deaths are prevented per year. So if 10 or 20 million lose their health insurance, that's American lives at stake.

BLACKWELL: So I'm dealing with numbers here because that's all we have in front of us right now. The 12 percent potential cut in the senate bill. The 17 percent cut that was proposed by the President of the United States, that's what the CDC and his budget that came out a few weeks ago. What would that mean to the people who rely upon the CDC, but also the work that you do to prevent disease?

FRIEDEN: This would be devastating for CDC, and it would make Americans unsafe. CDC works 24/7 protecting Americans from threats, whether they're infectious diseases in our hospitals, or flood supply, or cancers and heart attacks and strokes. If you lose the prevention fund, you lose prevention. You lose the ability to prevent cancer, heart attack, stroke, infections in hospitals. These are things that are threats every day that we can't ourselves control, we as a society have to control. That's what the prevent fund allows, that's what CDC does as its mission.

BLACKWELL: You talked about the deaths that are prevented when people gain health coverage. I want to get you to respond to something that Hillary Clinton tweeted out. She tweeted out, "Forget death panels. If republicans pass the bill, they're the death party." You know, the death panel was the lie of 2009, according to "Politico".

Is this the most effective use of her sway? Is this the way that Hillary Clinton should be fighting this bill?

FRIEDEN: I can't comment on that.

I can say that, from a public health doctor's perspective, the question is really very simple. Does this bill improve Americans' health? And if it denies coverage or makes coverage less comprehensive so people have to pay more, they'll get less of the care they need, and more people will die. So there is a direct implication of this bill to American lives.

And whatever happens in the end, I think that has to be the most important question that's asked, will this make Americans healthier? BLACKWELL: All right. Tom Frieden, thank you so much.

FRIEDEN: Thank you.


PAUL: Well, you know, years after a major scandal, veterans still facing a lot of problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Well, President Trump had a proposal to fix those.


BLACKWELL: President Trump is shaking up the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs. Yesterday, he signed an Employee Accountability Bill designed to fast-track firings and ramp up responsibility at the agency.

PAUL: Yes, but -- because remember, the V.A. was just rocked by revelations that CNN exposed. Some veterans died while they spent years on a waitlist just to see a doctor. The question is where do things stand now? Have they improved? CNN Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin takes a look for us.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First of all, the scandal erupted when whistleblowers bravely came forward and proved the V.A. was lying about how long patients were waiting, and in some cases, dying while waiting for care. There were major shake-ups.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: Can you please talk to us, Director?

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Billions spent.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): And now, much-improved wait times reported by the V.A.. That sounds good. But Debra Draper with the U.S. Government's own accountability office has heard it all before.

DEBRA DRAPER, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH CARE INVESTIGATIONS, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTAIBILITY OFFICE: The numbers that they're reporting, based on their work, they're not reliable numbers.

GRIFFIN: Period?

DRAPER: Period.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Draper is Director of Health Care Investigations for the GAO, which has labeled V.A.'s health care high risk in terms of government management. It's done so since 2015. Draper says even today, the V.A.'s wait time data is simply not to be believed.

GRIFFIN: They're longer? DRAPER: Oh, yes, in almost every case we find that the wait time -- actual wait times are actually longer than what the V.A. is reporting.

GRIFFIN: It has been nearly four years since CNN began exposing the secret wait lists, fabricated wait times, delays in care and the patients who died waiting for that care. It's been three years since congress approved $16 billion in additional fundings so the V.A. could fix those problems. In fact, since 2009, the V.A.'s budget has nearly doubled.

And yet, the problems and some would say the lies at the V.A. persist.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Eric Hannel is the former lead investigator for the House Veterans Affairs Committee, the congressional committee that led a year's long investigation into veterans dying while waiting for care. Yes, he says, then and now, the V.A. is not telling the truth about wait times.

HANNEL: None of it. The inspector general says the same thing. It was that way in 2014 when he reported on the wait time scandal. It is that way in 2017. You still cannot trust the V.A.'s information.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In fact, just this march, a damning V.A. inspector general report on seven V.A. medical centers in the southeast found patients waited an average of 61 days for specialty care. Two months. And the report found many patients in specialty care services experienced long wait times, which were not accurately reflected in V.A.'s calculated wait times. In other words, the wait times were being manipulated.

Just one of multiple examples, a mental health patient seeking care. The V.A.'s official electronic scheduling system showed a zero-day wait time when the veteran actually waited 120 days. The V.A. inspector general determined staff inappropriately discontinued or cancelled an estimated 4,600 appointments. What is it like to make a medical appointment at the V.A.?

TRACY RODRIGUEZ: Hi, Joy. I need to make some appointments.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Tracy Rodriguez invited us to find out. Her husband served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He relies on the V.A. for health care. April 24th, she sat down at her kitchen table and let us listen while she tried to make three medical appointments.

RODRIGUEZ: I think they have one person answering the phone over there or something.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The phone call itself took more than half an hour.

RODRIGUEZ: He needs to see urology. As soon as you got. Yes, definitely sooner than July or June. GRIFFIN (voice-over): The wait for urology, two months. Surprisingly, an appointment for primary care could happen in just weeks. But when she tries to get an appointment for an eye doctor, a specialties clinic --

UNIDENTFIED MALE: They're saying September?


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Five months. About normal, she says, for her.

RODRIGUEZ: One out of three is not bad.


GRIFFIN: Victor and Christi, the V.A. wouldn't respond to our direct questions on the unreliability of its wait time calculations. Instead, we got comments saying that the V.A. is more transparent than ever about its wait times. And from new secretary David Shulkin, he is citing V.A. statistics which say 22 percent of veterans are seen on a same-day basis.

The V.A. secretary did acknowledge much more needs to be done and that he's committed to being very open about fixing wait times at the V.A.. Victor, Christi.

PAUL: All right, Drew. Thank you so much.

Now, Representative Steve Scalise has been released from the intensive care unit of a Washington hospital after he was shot in the hip last week at a practice for the GOP baseball team, remember.

Now, a statement from the hospital says Scalise is in fair condition. Earlier medical reports said he was shot in his left hip and suffered significant damage to his internal organs. Another Alexandria shooting victim, Matt Mika, is also in good condition and has been discharged from the hospital.

BLACKWELL: It is a divisive symbol that's flying high above the parking lot of a South Carolina restaurant. Next, why the owner of that restaurant wants it gone, but he can't take it down.


PAUL: Forty-six minutes past the hour right now. In the City of Ferguson Missouri will pay more than $1 million over the death of Michael Brown. The city's attorney says they settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Brown's family for $1.5 million. Now, a police officer, remember, shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014. The officer was not charged after there was an investigation, but the shooting set off weeks of protests across the country.

BLACKWELL: I traveled to Central South Carolina this week, where there's a Confederate flag that's flying high above a restaurant in the Town of Orangeburg. Now, some customers hate it. Others revere it. What does the owner of that restaurant think about the flag? Truth is, right now, it doesn't matter.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): This broad stretch of John C. Calhoun drive is flanked by two unambiguous landmarks, and each, in its own way, signifies exactly where you are. On the right, a sign welcoming you to Orangeburg, South Carolina, population roughly 13,000 and more than three quarters black. On the left, a Confederate flag. The flag flies atop this pole, right next to the sign for the Edisto River Creamery.

By now, you know the flag's (INAUDIBLE) some history, and seemingly, everyone in Orangeburg has an opinion about the flag at the ice cream shop.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: It needs to come down.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: I never stopped there and don't plan to as long as that flag's still up there.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: It's not bothering anybody. It's not hurting anybody.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: It definitely needs to come down. I think they will get more business, honestly, if they do take it down.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): And what does the owner of this restaurant have to say?

TOMMY DARAS, OWNER, EDISTO RIVER CREAMERY: That flag needs to be moved. And if there's any possible way that I can do it, it's going to be gone.

BLACKWELL: But right now, you can't?

DARAS: Right now, we're gridlocked.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): To understand why Tommy Daras cannot remove the flag, you need to know about this man.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Maurice Bessinger, politician, activist, and founder of Maurice's Piggie Park chain of barbecue restaurants across Central South Carolina. In this 2008 interview with Newsweek, Bessinger showed off his collection of Confederate memorabilia that filled his restaurants.

He was a fierce defender of States' Rights and segregation. In 2004 autobiography, Bessinger called the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court ruling that integrated public schools, a really bad decision. Then in 2000, when this happened at the South Carolina State Capital --

BESSINGER: I raised the flag out here on the big pole to protest the taking down of our heritage flag. BLACKWELL (voice-over): Maurice Bessinger died in 2014. Of the flags outside of his stores, Bessinger wrote, there they will stay. I will fight on because this is what God wants me to do. A year after his death, Tommy Daras and his wife bought the Orangeburg location from Bessinger's children. But, not all of it.

BLACKWELL: Before Bessinger died, he sold a tiny bit of land surrounding this flagpole a little more than three thousandths of an acre for just $5 to the sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 842.

BUD BRAXTON, MEMBER, CAMP 842: We've been trying ever since to honor, honor the Confederate soldier.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Bud Braxton is Commander of the group's 8th Brigade and member of Camp 842.

BRAXTON: He put it in the hands of people that he trusted because he loved his Confederate ancestors and his Confederate history just like we do. So there was nothing sinister.

BLACKWELL: Initially, Daras accepted the flag and the nearby marker. But that changed weeks after his grand opening. The group flew a larger flag in the aftermath of the 2015 church shooting in Charleston. Dylann Roof killed nine church members after calling for a race war.

DARAS: From that day forward, all hell broke loose for me. Because, you know, there -- my windows were broken out. My phone was ringing offer the hook. My employees were harassed. I disliked by people in the parking lot. Everyone in town assumed it was my property. It looks like it's attached to this building.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: I know it's unfortunate for him. But me personally and a lot of people I know will not shop here because of this flag.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Maurice Bessinger's battle for the flag rages on. Daras has hired a lawyer.

DARAS: That flag needs to be moved.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): The Sons of the Confederate Veterans say they're ready.



BLACKWELL: Well, the attorney for the ice cream shop's owner says that corner is zoned for commercial use and the flag pole and marker should be moved because they're violating zoning rules. But the city, just a couple of days ago, rejected that approach. The attorney plans to appeal.

There's also a question of who actually owns that land. Daras's attorney says that their land sale records show no exception for the roughly 130-square feet that Bessinger sold to the Sons of Confederate veterans 10 years earlier. It's deed versus deed, and this could end up in court.

PAUL: Well, there's a new report that uncovers how much former President Obama knew about Russia's attempt to meddle in the 2016 elections. It's the top of the hour now. The White House's reaction about the possibility that President Trump did not -- or President Obama, excuse me, did not do enough to stop Moscow's alleged hacking.

And on tomorrow's episode of "United Shades of America" W. Kamau Bell visits the Appalachia Region, that's where the loss of the coal industry has really caused towns to just slowly die away.


UNIDENTFIED MALE: We went from 18 mines in this town to three. We went from 1,500 employees to 150 people working.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: We all are in an economic downturn in the coal industry.

W. KAMAU BELL, HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: And this is the main industry in Appalachia?

UNIDENTFIED MALE: It is. With the loss of those jobs, it's really devastating for families and communities.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: We strife to get by. I just want a good job, that's it.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: No jobs leads to no money, which leads to depression, which leads to drugs.

BELL: How easy is it to find drugs down here?

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: All you got to do is walk down the sidewalk.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: I'm concerned about the future.



BLACKWELL: In this week's "Start Small, Think Big" segment, we're talking about some -- one of my favorite cuisines -- delicious Indian food.

PAUL: He's got a lot of favorite cuisines, too. I'll (INAUDIBLE) say it.

BLACKWELL: I do. I do. Right.

PAUL: However, there's -- I want to give you a look at how two brothers in Atlanta are bringing more authentic dishes to a table near you. Here's their recipe for this small business success.




NEAL ADANI: Welcome to NaanStop.

SAMIR ADANI: Welcome to NaanStop.

SAMIR ADANI: Our goal is to make Indian food easy to eat. Indian food can be an intimidating experience. The flavors, the spices, the -- everything is a little bit different.

How are you doing, sir?

So we've taken the traditional Indian meal and broken it down into three simple steps. First, you're going to choose your base, then you choose your protein, and then third, you choose from your different chutneys, sauces or toppings. We just want people to try it and taste it, and then we're confident they're going to love the flavors.

This our signature Naanwhich (ph). It's a wrap in our fresh baked Naan bread, kind of like a Naan burrito. It's the entire Indian meal in your hands.

We opened up the food truck in L.A. in 2011. It was a low-cost way for us to just get out there and start feeding people and see what they think. Now, we have two restaurants here in Atlanta and we're looking for more locations. So we really feel like this business is growing and growing quickly.

Thanks, man. Thanks for being a naan believer.


PAUL: Oh, good for them. All righty. Make sure your Saturday starts off -- (INAUDIBLE) believe it. Listen, he's smiling about that stupid smile. Look.

BLACKWELL: There you go, folks. (INAUDIBLE) in the pool. Happy Saturday.

PAUL: Yes, this is at the Dallas zoo. Apparently, it's in "flash dance." You just got to wonder, I mean, I don't know if they just didn't give him the right thing to eat?

BLACKWELL: I don't know. One, let me say I thought -- this being in the show, but I lost, and everybody else loved it. But of course, went and had a lot of fun with this video. They added the music, obviously. Apparently, this is not Zolo's first time being caught dancing here. His keeper says he's been practicing for more than six years.

PAUL: You know what, he's happy, he's safe in that zoo, and that's what matters at the end of the day. And he gets a nice smile for the day. And you know what? I (INAUDIBLE) says he did smile, just so you know.

BLACKWELL: All right. There you have. Share it online. PAUL: Yes, exactly. So we are so glad to have you with us. We're going to see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for "CNN NEWSROOM."

BLACKWELL: But stay with us, "SMERCONISH" starts right now.