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White House Declines To Refute Russian Claims On Trump Meeting; No Trump Press Conference At G20 Summit; Senate GOP Reach Deadline, Must Pass Bill This Week; Christopher Wray To Be Grilled Wednesday; President Trump Declines To Hold A Press Conference After The G20 Summit; Troops In Space; U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko To Hold News Conference; Ceasefire Deal In Syria; Deadly Wildfires In California Force Evaluations; CNN's Original Series "The Nineties" Premiers Tonight. Aired 6-7a

Aired July 9, 2017 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is customary to have a U.S. president along with other leaders to attend these summits hold a press conference, President Trump did not do that.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There is no basis for thinking that Russia interfered in the election process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you not want to respond to that and correct the record if it is wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump will be happy to make statements himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know Russia is going to keep doing this and why just sit there like an impotent weak president and let Putin walk over you and do nothing when it comes to our cyber security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He confronted President Putin. He made it the first thing the he talked about and I think we have to now see where it goes from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressional Republicans have been waiting for years for their opportunity to overturn Obamacare and now with it sitting in front of them, they just can't figure out how to get it done!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we got to get the job done, but we have got to do it right.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Right now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is Ukraine and at any moment, he'll be meeting with President Petro Poroshenko. The State Department says Tillerson intends to reaffirm America's commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They will speak to reports next hour and we will bring that to you live.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, Congress is getting back to work after the Fourth of July break, of course. The GOP hoping to repeal and replace Obamacare. That is in limbo and in question right now. A lot of GOP senators got an earful from their constituents when they went home.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, FBI director nominee, Christopher Ray, will likely face some tough questions about the FBI's probe into Russia's election meddling at his confirmation hearing that is scheduled for Wednesday.

PAUL: And as of last hour, a partial ceasefire has taken effect in Syria. The U.S., Russia, Jordan, all agreeing to establish a de- escalation zone in the southwest part of the country.

BLACKWELL: Secretary of State Tillerson says it's a sign the U.S. and Russia can work together to end the bloody Syrian civil war.

PAUL: White House advisers are not offering any clarity this morning as to whether President Trump did or did not accept Russian President Putin's assurances that there was no Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Our Athena Jones explains this diplomatic he said-he said we are watching, and that is still currently unfolding after this first meeting.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much of the focus leading up to the G20 Summit and afterwards has been on the first face-to-face meeting between President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and the competing and contradictory read-outs from the two sides about just what was discussed.

We know the meeting lasted two hours and 15 minutes or so. We also know that both sides agreed that President Trump brought up the issue of Russian meddling in last year's election early in the meeting.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the pair had a very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject. But here is where the read-outs diverge, according to the Russians, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Putin himself, they say that President Trump took Putin at his word when he denied any Russian involvement or Russian meddling in last year's election.

A senior administration official told my colleague, Jim Acosta, Friday night that is not how it went down, but given the opportunity multiple times to correct the record during a briefing with reporters aboard Air Force One on the flight home, administration officials declined to do so. Here is an exchange with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) of another country making a statement about the president of the United states, do you not want to respond to that and correct the record if it is wrong?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I will not make comments about what other people say. President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about that, but President Trump handled himself brilliantly. It was very clear he made his position felt and after a very substantive dialogue on this, they agreed to move on to other discussions.

And I think it's very clear that they have opened a dialogue, that it's important to have a dialogue. As we had, they focused on a ceasefire on Syria, focused on making sure that we have a cyber-unit to make sure that Russia and nobody else interferes in any democratic elections.

And we focus on the issue of North Korea, which is a major concern to us and all our other allies.


JONES: Now you heard Secretary Mnuchin there dodging that question. You also heard him say that President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about this issue, but of course, the president did not make such a statement before leaving Europe.

[06:05:02]He did not hold a customary press conference that presidents have held at every G20 Summit in the last several years. The last time, we heard directly from the president on this issue of Russian meddling was on Thursday in Poland when he gave not a very definitive statements on his beliefs about that issue.

He said he thought Russia could be involved, but also other people and other countries, not the kind of definitive statement that many people want to hear from President Trump.

BLACKWELL: All right, Athena Jones at the White House, thank you. Let's discuss this now with CNN political commentator and political anchor at Spectrum News, Errol Louis, and CNN political analyst and Princeton University professor and historian, Julian Zelizer. Good morning to you.

And Errol, let me start with this, just the basic contradiction within the administration. Friday night, a senior administration official told CNN that the president did not accept Putin's denial.

And then you had three times on Air Force One, three administration officials declined to say that the president, indeed, accepted Putin's denial. What is the assessment here?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, my sense of it is that some of this is the growing pains of a new administration. We will keep in mind that neither of the two cabinet secretaries nor the president, himself, has ever worked in the field of international diplomacy, so they are kind of doing this for the first time.

I think they are going to learn some of the small things that they should pick up on, things like it's important to have a press briefing right after the fact in order to make sure that you don't have this kind of confusion.

The fact that you should do it on camera as the Russians did, not this strange sort of audio and not letting any pictures be taken of them as they answer questions. Then, finally, getting their stories straight.

So look, my sense of it is that there is absolutely no reason to believe that the president changed from his last statement in Poland the day before this meeting took place.

And the fact that none of the cabinet secretaries will give us a definitive answer on it tells you all that you need to know. The Russian version of this seems to be closer to the truth than the sort of haze of ambiguity that is coming from the administration.

BLACKWELL: So Julian, to be fair, the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and the adviser to the president, Gary Cohn, they were not in the meeting so they are only repeating potentially what they were told. The president or Secretary Tillerson, they have to answer this. What is your take on why there has not been clarity on this?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, this is where the credibility of a president matters both on specific issues or on all issues. The president has sent mixed messages when, at a press conference the day before the meeting, he vacillated and hesitated to say that the Russians had intervened in the 2016 election.

He set up the kind of speculation that now exists since no one else was in the room other than these men. And so when unfortunate those contradictions, when you have questions of credibility and then the president doesn't follow-up by directly addressing the issue, it shouldn't be a surprise that many people are skeptical about which side of the account is actually true.

BLACKWELL: So Errol, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Kaley will be on "STATE OF THE UNION" later this morning and she was asked about this exchange with the president's conversations with President Putin about election meddling. Here is what she said.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections and everybody knows they are not just meddling in the United States elections, they are doing this across multiple continents and in a way that they are trying to cause chaos within the country.


BLACKWELL: So Errol, Ambassador Haley has spoken clearly and concisely when the president has not. You'll remember the White House refused to say whether the president actually believes climate change is real, she came out and says he does. Is her role just to affirm what is seems obvious so the administration can move on or do you see another strategy here or is there one?

LOUIS: I don't know if it's a strategy so much, Victor. This is somebody who clearly is a skilled political veteran, somebody who has run for election and stood before people multiple times, who understands that you have to be very direct.

That if you lead ambiguity, you know, I mean, in addition to what Julian mentioned which is absolutely correct, you had a false statement in effect from the president in the form of his tweet saying everyone here at the G20 is talking about John Podesta and the DNC not taking seriously threats --

BLACKWELL: Yes, I'm sure that is what the president of Argentina was talking about.

LOUIS: Yes. I mean, it's -- you know, it's kind of crazy to sort of think that out of that sort of blanket of ambiguous statements you're going to get a clear policy. Nikki Haley does understand that you have to be clear and direct. She may get a call from the White House, but they should probably be listening to her more than the other way around.

BLACKWELL: Julian, the narrative we heard from Secretary Tillerson was that the president pressed Vladimir Putin on election meddling. If he accepted the denial, how firm could that press have been?

[06:10:09]ZELIZER: Well, if he did accept the denial or he didn't follow through on what happens next, then will there be continued sanctions for the Russian intervention? Then he didn't really press them. He just talked about it and he almost did his duty to try to get some of the pressure off.

That is not really pressure, you know, there has been much effort to actually create pressure on the Russians. Not simply for what happened, but to make sure there isn't more intervention in 2018 and 2020. The pressure is not simply saying something to the Russian leadership but imposing sanctions or taking other measure.

Look, when President Trump wants to be clear and his attacks on the media and his attacks on Democrats, he can be very clear. So I think many people are wondering why he doesn't have that clarity here. It might not just be an experience, it might be his unwillingness to do.

BLACKWELL: This actually is one of the few topics that could be cleared up in 140 characters. You could simply say, I did not accept the denial from President Putin. You could do that in probably 80 characters. Julian Zelizer, Errol Louis, stick with us. We will talk about health care a little later in the show.

And be sure to hear the entire interview with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Dana Bash today at 9:00 a.m. only on CNN. PAUL: All right, people in Southern California are really in a predicament with these raging wildfires that are forcing people out of their homes now. Officials in Santa Barbara County, look at what they are dealing with, those officials ordered evacuations after this fast moving Alamo fire tripled in size yesterday. It's now stretching 30 miles wide and still growing.

BLACKWELL: More than 1,000 firefighters are battling this one. It's only 10 percent contained at this hour so a lot still to do and all of this a result of the deadly heat wave that has already claimed nearly 60 lives in Arizona. The temperatures in Phoenix hit a new record high. Imagine this, 118 degrees. Heat advisory still in effect today.

PAUL: All of you take good care if you're in those areas.

All righty, the Senate is back in business this week picking up where they left off in the battle over health care. Can the Republicans turn this thing around in their bid to repeal and replace Obamacare?

BLACKWELL: Also later this hour, could U.S. military forces be used in space to guard the galaxy. The top question but I want you to hear one lawmaker's proposal.



PAUL: Well, take a look at the capitol, sun coming up today. Gorgeous morning there in D.C.

BLACKWELL: Yes, beautiful start. It's 16 minutes after the hour.

PAUL: You know that is where it's going to be now or never for Senate Republicans this week as they are back from their July Fourth recess tomorrow and health care is the first thing on their agenda.

BLACKWELL: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tells his party they can either pass their health care plan this week or be forced to work on a bipartisan effort with Democrats. Our Tom Foreman explains.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Congressional Republicans have been waiting for years for their opportunity to overturn Obamacare and now with it sitting in front of them, they just can't figure out how to get it done.

(voice-over): From the Republican-controlled Senate, a stunning change of direction. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he will work with the Democrats to prop up Obamacare if his own party can't pass an alternative plan.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Premiums are going up. Co- payments are going up. Deductibles are going up. So we have to solve the current crisis and I think repealing and then delaying the replacement doesn't work.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.

FOREMAN: CNN has learned the White House was caught off guard by McConnell's comments coming less than a week after the president's own surprise move when he tweeted, "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date."

But that has gained no traction even as the Republican bill has continued spinning its wheels. Some senators in their home districts for the July Fourth recess face tough questions from constituents.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I still am a no unless the bill is dramatically changed.

FOREMAN: So bipartisan support, limited as it may be, is swirling around McConnell's idea.

SENATOR BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Senator McConnell is correct in that we need to make sure that the individual market is a stronger market than it is today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe what Mitchell McConnell is the right path to take.

FOREMAN: Even amid furious pushback from conservative quarters. Heritage Action for America saying such a deal with Democrats would be catastrophic for the Republican Party, and on it goes. With various Republicans offering their own solutions about how to end the impasse, unite the party, and somehow turn the turmoil into triumph.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I think we got to get the job done, but we have got to do it right. That results matter. It's not just passing a bill whose title is Obamacare repeal. We actually got to do something that fixes the problem.

FOREMAN (on camera): Watching the Republicans twist themselves into knots trying to deal with the health care reform riddle was a wonderful holiday recess for congressional Democrats, only it was less like Independence Day and more like Christmas in July.


PAUL: All right, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst, historian and professor at Princeton University, all with us. Good morning to you, Gentlemen. Thank you so much for sticking with us.

Julian, I want to start with you and ask how much will what legislators heard this past week drive what they do this week when it comes to trying to how to figure out how to reconcile health care?

[06:20:07]ZELIZER: It's very important. Many senators were back in their states and they were hearing from constituents at protests directly or indirectly about why this bill was not something that they wanted.

States that have expanded Medicaid even though they are Republican states. Rural hospitals which are fearful about losing their money, and they also --Senators have continued to hear that their colleagues are not all on board.

So the news about that division is very important as they go back to Capitol Hill and make a decision, do we vote for one of the most unpopular legislative proposals in recent years and do we do so with a president they are not certain will have their backs? So that is a difficult decision to make.

PAUL: Which brings me to my next question, Errol, where does President Trump fall in all of this in terms of trying to get this passed?

LOUIS: He is going to have to figure out where what he wants intersects what the Senate can do. What he wants is anything that could be interpreted as a victory. So you know, one of the quotes we just heard from Senator Cruz saying that as far as he is concerned it's not enough to just have a bill that is titled repeal if it doesn't really repeal.

Well, for the White House it's a little bit different. Anything that looks like it could be, you know, palmed off on the public as repeal whether it actually does or not is going to serve the president's interest at this point on the one hand.

Substantively, we should keep in mind that in the backdrop of all of this is finding the money that would fund the tax cut that is the main priority of both of the Republican congressional leadership and the White House. That is really what this is about to a certain extent.

So as long as they can get those savings, whether it's called repeal, whether it's not called repeal, whether it's bipartisan, whether it's a narrow party line vote doesn't really matter as much as finding the savings to get on to the next big thing.

PAUL: So you find the savings but, Julian, the Democrats have said there have been some Democrats who have said, look, we know that Obamacare isn't perfect. We know there are changes that need to be made to it. What has been the obstacle that has taken Republicans so long to try to craft a bill that works?

ZELIZER: Well, it seems that the crafting of the bill was not carefully done. The proposal they have now floated when they have united government in front of them is so punitive to so many Americans that it's hard to sell that.

So they are not selling a bill that stabilizes health care markets or lowers premiums. They are trying to sell a bill that strips away health care benefits from millions of Americans and they assume there would be Republican cooperation on that and there is not.

And at the same time, some of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of the president whose job it is to sell bills, whether popular or unpopular, and I think that the tweeting and the inconsistency here has had a big cost for the GOP.

PAUL: Errol, no doubt, though, according to Republicans, something has to be done because those individual markets, as they say, are on the verge of collapse. So things are going to get worse for the American people they say any way.

LOUIS: Well, I'm not so sure that something has to be done to be honest with you, Christi. I mean, the poll in mid-June by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that something like 8 percent of Republican voters think that repeal should be the top priority for Congress.

You know, and I believe that they probably got an earful of that in their travels over this holiday weekend. Hence, Susan Collins walking down Maine streets shaking hands with people up in Maine, I don't think she heard over this weekend something has to be done for a relatively small group of insured who are having a very hard time paying for this.

There is a much bigger and broader group of people who are benefiting from the Medicaid expansions and some of the other provisions of Obamacare. So I'm not so sure that they feel a lot of pressure to make something happen and that's why they didn't have the votes to get McConnell's bill passed in the first place.

PAUL: Errol Louis, Julian Zelizer, so appreciate it both of you, thank you.

BLACKWELL: President Trump's pick for FBI director will face confirmation hearing this week. Christopher Wray will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The president fired James Comey in that position in May.

Who is he Christopher Wray? Well, he is a Yale Law School graduate, worked as a federal prosecutor for decades. Eventually he was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2003 to serve as an assistant attorney general working for the Justice Department Criminal Division.

Then Wray went on to work with both Comey and now Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He now works as a litigation partner at a law firm representing defendants in white collar cases.

[06:25:00]Wray also counseled New Jersey Government Chris Christie throughout the bridgegate scandal. He has also given more than $50,000 to Republican candidates, committees, and his law firm's PAC since 2007. The questions will be tough this upcoming week, but there is bipartisan support for his nomination.

PAUL: Up next, two foreign trips in two months and still no news conferences from President Trump, even as leaders from nation not known for their press freedoms take the podium. When will we hear from the president?

BLACKWELL: We may be moving closer to the day where U.S. troops are stationed in space to guard the galaxy. You have to hear about this one. An astronaut weighs in on that idea.


PAUL: It's 29 minutes past 6:00 on a Sunday morning. You're up early and we are glad for it. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: No place I'd rather be. I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting soon with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

[06:30:00] BLACKWELL: He was greeted in Kiev with a -- the traditional welcome here, the bread and salt ceremony. Meanwhile, President Trump back in Washington, back to trying to make some progress on his domestic agenda.

First up, health care reform. Also confirming a new FBI director.

PAUL: And this, of course, as his advisers are touting a successful G20 summit but here is something that is a little unique about this.

A lot of people were waiting for a press conference. That is something both President Bush and President Obama did after each attended the G20 summit in the past.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but not President Trump. Instead, the narrative was shaped by the other leaders at the summit U.K., Germany, France, Turkish; Russians leaders as well more strict of press freedoms than the U.S. held press conferences. The question now, does it matter that President Trump did not?

So let's talk about it. Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent for CNN and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" is here.

So, let me put that question to you. The president did not hold a news conference, has not held one for several months in his administration. Does it

matter that he didn't?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It does matter because I mean the other countries were able to lead the way, setting the narrative about this, this summit. It's been described, of course, as the G19 as you all were talking about.

The president made some statements, even with what he was wearing, wearing the United States lapel pin, not the G20 lapel pin a lot of other foreign leaders were wearing. Obviously the take away for Americans from the last few days has been that he was there to say America is first, that he is trying to prioritize that and so forth.

But he's not actually speaking much about that. If you think about it you don't hear the president's voice as often these days because he doesn't give interviews, doesn't hold press conferences.

There was that one joint press conference he had in Poland reporters (INAUDIBLE) a couple of questions. He used the opportunity to bash CNN and NBC, getting (ph) some of the anti media points across. But for the most part we don't hear from the president very often these days in those kinds of settings where he may answer questions.

And I thought it was notable, guys. You just showed a sound bite from Steve Mnuchin hold a briefing for reporters afterward in Air Force One and he said, oh, we're not going to make comments about that. President Trump himself will be happy to make comments about that.

Well, that would be wonderful if he did make statements. Nikki Haley later today on "STATE OF THE UNION" one of her answers is, the president will speak on that issue. But often time the president is not actually answering the questions that his aides or cabinet officials are kicking over to him.

PAUL: You know, this is the president who said he was going to do things differently. He's definitely doing thing differently. There's no doubt about it.

Do you think that we just need to accept this is the way it is and we are not going to hear from the president in times like these until, I guess, he is ready to talk? And I'm wondering what the detriment to that though is, Brian?

STELTER: Right. Certainly, he has his social media accounts. We've all talked about his use of Twitter. But Twitter and Facebook are not a replacement for the back and forth that you experience from reporters that are asking questions that the public wants to have asked.

I agree with you, this is a different presidency and it's worth noting when things are normal and things are abnormal. No holding press events and not giving interviews is one of the examples of how this is an abnormal presidency.

When you look back at Bush or Clinton or Bush again or Obama you mentioned that at these G20 events normally there are press conferences by all the foreign leaders afterwards. We believe -- we've looked up stats here. It's the first time since 2004 than an American president has not had a press conference at the end of one of these summits.

The Russian president did. Most of the other foreign leaders did. So they have the upper hand when it came to setting the narrative about what happened there.

PAUL: All right. Brian Stelter, always appreciate you waking up early for us.

STELTER: Thanks.

PAUL: Thanks for being here. And stick just around, you'll see more of Brian. Brian Stelter on "RELIABLE SOURCES." It's at 11:00 a.m. Eastern today right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: All right. So get this headline. It reads like a billboard for a summer blockbuster.

Send forces into space to save the world from potential "Star Wars." Former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao says he is puzzled by the real life plan to send American forces into space. Our conversation with him up next.



BLACKWELL: All right. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour now.

Get this. A congressional committee is proposing a new branch of the military called the United States Space Corps. The main mission here is providing combat ready space forces.

PAUL: The proposal is heading to the House of Representatives.

Now as you can imagine, not everybody is on board here. The Air Force has already launched an effort to stop the proposal, in fact, but Leroy Chiao is a former astronaut. He flew several shuttle missions, commandeered a mission aboard the international space station.

(INAUDIBLE) going to ask him about his thoughts on this proposed space force.

So, Leroy, I understand that you're part of a small group of people who spent time in space. First of all, your reaction to this proposal.

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, it's a little puzzling. I guess I'm wondering what itch is being scratched. Neither the secretary of the Air Force or the chief of staff of the Air Force think this is a good idea.

What is wrong with the current structure of space command in the Air Force -- I guess it has got everybody a little bit puzzled as to why these congressmen are asking for this creation.

PAUL: You know, they are described as needing combat-ready space forces.

What is the threat in space? This is what might come as a surprise to a lot of people. What is the -- what is the threat that a combat- ready space force could tackle?

CHIAO: Well, I think that already exists under space command in the Air Force where, of course, they are operating military satellites, reconnaissance satellites and presumably assets that could shoot down enemy satellites.


And so all of that stuff is already in place. And so by making this new space corps, you know, I don't know what they have in mind. These congressmen, whether they think we're going to actually have troops in space, I mean, we don't have any bases in space and so it's a little bit puzzling as to what they are trying to create. PAUL: So do you have any ideas as to whether astronauts will be able to give some input into how they craft this?

CHIAO: Well, I mean, again it depends on what their intention is. You know, currently space command of the Air Force operates all of these military assets but none of them include any astronaut warriors that are going to be fighting wars in space.

And so I don't foresee that in any scenario in the near future or even the immediate (ph) future so it's a little bit puzzling.

PAUL: But as somebody who has been in space what would you want the House to know before they vote on this bill? Despite what we don't know about it, what do you think is imperative for them to understand from your perspective?

CHIAO: Well, I think what we need for them to understand is, you know, what caused the idea that we need this. Is there a shift in some kind of policy or, you know, is there some envision -- do they envision some kind of a base in space we need military bases in space?

And if not, then it's puzzling as to why they would say, hey, we need to create this new space corps when things seem to be operating just fine, the space command under the Air Force or within the Air Force.

PAUL: But on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. will return to the moon and put American boots on Mars. So this administration, obviously, very supportive of more investments for space exploration.

Do you think that they need to be spending more money in this realm as opposed to that aspect of space exploration?

CHIAO: Right. Absolutely. And those words are very encouraging and I'll be waiting to see if they back it up with the funding commitments.

You know, frankly a lot of good things have been said by this administration, but, you know, the -- you've got to get the money and the support in order for these things to happen.

PAUL: All right. Well, Leroy Chiao, it's so good to have you with us. Thanks for your input.

CHIAO: Great to be with you.

PAUL: Sure.

CHIAO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Any minute now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, will speak to reporters in Kiev. We'll listen for the message coming from America's top diplomat after President Trump's two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. PAUL: And we have to tell you about this deadly heat wave and what it is doing in regards to the growing fires we've been seeing in Southern California. Evacuations are underway. Hundreds of homes are threatened right now.

We will have the latest for you. Stay close.



PAUL: Right now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Ukraine meeting with President Petro Poroshenko. The two are expected to hold a news conference in just a few minutes and we will bring it to you if it happens. But this comes after President Trump spent more than two hours meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit.

BLACKWELL: CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is live in Moscow for us now.

And after President Trump described this meeting as tremendous, what does that mean to those in Kiev. How do they receive that?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are going to be a bit insecure because, of course, they view Russia as their enemy. They have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country of Ukraine for years. That's a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

And they have watched Russia invade, occupy, and annex the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 so they are very concerned clearly that a warming of relations between Washington and Moscow means potentially a loss of support for Ukraine.

It is worth noting, though, that President Trump met with Ukrainian President Poroshenko in Washington on June 20th, before he sat down with President Putin in Germany. And Secretary Tillerson is arriving in Kiev and he is bringing along a newly appointed special envoy, Kurt Volker -- Volker -- sorry -- who is a former NATO ambassador who is now being charged with helping deal with the ongoing Ukrainian crisis -- Victor -- Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ivan Watson for us in Moscow. Ivan, thanks so much.

PAUL: Well, as of last hour, a partial cease-fire has taken effect now in Syria.

BLACKWELL: The U.S., Russia, and Jordan agreed to establish de- escalation zone in the southwest section of the country.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says, it is a sign the U.S. and Russia can work together to end the bloodshed there in the Syrian civil war. This comes as American-backed forces continue to perjury ISIS from their stronghold there, de facto capital of Raqqa. All right. Still to come wildfires in Southern California out of control because of this deadly heat wave and dry conditions. Official there ordering full scale evacuations. We've got an update on that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's raining ash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen on the outdoor furniture. I've seen it on the door mat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very heavy ashes on everything.


PAUL: You feel for those people.

And look at this. Barack Obama is not president any more but guess what? His legendary baby whispering skills are apparently still in full gear. The story behind this snap.



BLACKWELL: Beautiful morning in Atlanta. Good morning, good morning -- 6:53 there.

PAUL: And it's probably only 87 right about now.

BLACKWELL: I'd put it at about 91.

PAUL: No. At some point today, yes. But it's about what it's going to be so enjoy the view from inside.

But, listen, that is nothing compared to what some folk are dealing with.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Stifling temperatures, low humidity, high winds -- you put all that together, I mean, it's a recipe for what we are seeing in California.

Look at this. The fire there spreading out of control, threatening hundreds of homes, forcing people out of their communities.

PAUL: The Alamo fire is in Santa Barbara here -- Santa Barbara County, I should point out -- tripled in size yesterday. Meanwhile, there is an investigation in Arizona as nearly 60 deaths -- 60 people died as a result of the heat wave there.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar has today's outlook for us. But I -- I understand it has been really, really rough one for the folk in Arizona.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It has. You know, Christi, you kind of sort of joked about it being already 87 in Atlanta. Do you know that Phoenix never even got that cold yesterday in the morning?

PAUL: Oh, yes.

CHINCHAR: They stayed above that throughout all the day.


So again that is one of the problems that they are having to deal with these on fires because those temperatures have been so incredibly hot out there. Right now 39 active large fires. This does not count the nearly 100 really tiny or smaller fires that you'd see out in some of those locations.

Now when we are talking about these fires, we think about winds increasing and that's going to be an issue for some of them. But you also talked about what we refer to as dry thunderstorms. Meaning that it's going to rain but that rain evaporates before it ever reaches the surface.

So you don't get the benefit of helping those rain showers put out the fires. But you do however get the lightning along with it. And that's what we are going to be seeing today.

Notice as we go into the afternoon and into the evening hours, some showers and thunderstorms begin to fire up. Most of the rain will evaporate but you have the problem with the lightning that could end up, in turn, triggering more wildfires.

Then you also talk about the heat being a concern. Because look at some of these numbers. Las Vegas yesterday making it to 113, 104 in Salt Lake City -- even Helena, Montana, topping out at 102. And these were just a few of the over 40 record high temperatures that were set yesterday again across portions of the west.

Stretching from Southern California all the way into Northern Montana, practically Canada at that point. The heat is going to continue. We still have heat advisories and excessive heat warnings out for portions of the west.

The good news is it's not going to be as hot as yesterday. With that said, we are only talking about a difference of maybe two or three degrees cooler. That is enough to prevent some of these areas from getting record high temperatures today, but still triple digits again for Boise, Idaho, and even places like Vegas.

That heat is going to shift further off to the east so place like Des Moines and Kansas City, St. Louis, even Chicago are going to start to see their temperatures warming up.

And here's something just to kind of fathom in your mind, Victor and Christi. Boston has had more 90-degree days this year than Knoxville, Tennessee.

Here's another one. Washington, D.C. has had double the amount of 90- degree days that Anderson, South Carolina has had. And just for us because I know you're thinking about this, Minneapolis has actually had more 90-degree days than we have here in Atlanta.


PAUL: So we shouldn't feel that badly is what you're saying? I feel bad now for the people in Minnesota.

CHINCHAR: It's -- I know. That is the thing. You know, you feel bad for them but maybe take it on the good note that maybe we haven't had quite as many this year.


PAUL: Thank you, Allison --


BLACKWELL: Perspective.

PAUL: -- high note, I suppose. That's right.

BLACKWELL: Perspective.

PAUL: It's what you choose to see.


PAUL: There is truth to that. Thank you.


BLACKWELL: All right. The 1990s. Let's talk about them.

Great decade for the family sitcom. A lot of good television.

PAUL: That's true.


PAUL: There were.

CNN's new original series "THE NINETIES." Actually they really look at remembering the wholesome iconic shows that define that decade.

It was about a family in Chicago and their genius nerdy neighbor in fact. Take a look.


JALEEL WHITE, ACTOR: Lookout. Do it on the (INAUDIBLE).


WHITE: Get down.

VELJOHNSON: Get down with your bad self.

WHITE: Get down with your bad self.

VELJOHNSON: Get all the way down.

WHITE: Get all the way down.


WHITE: Oh, yes.


WHITE: Yes. Did I do that?



BLACKWELL: CNN's Brooke Baldwin sat down with actor Jaleel White also known as Urkel from "Family Matters." They talked about how he got that part and what he misses most about the '90s.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Tell me about the audition. Do you remember your dad's glasses?

WHITE: Yes -- no, I remember it very well.

My dad was running late as usual and I wanted the glasses with the tape in the middle. And he handed me the glasses that he uses at his dental practice to keep particles from flying into his eyes.

BALDWIN: No way.

WHITE: And it was supposed to be a one-shot deal. And may he rest in peace. The Robin Williams effect took place.

BALDWIN: Jaleel, how was it like, I mean, when you would not be wearing the nerdy suspenders and, you know, the tape on glasses out, you know, walking down the street? Was it tough -- was it tough for people to see you, especially in that time and not think, did I do that?

WHITE: You know, it's funny that you say that though because people fail to realize that was my puberty.

So, you know, when I get in my own mental time machine and go back to Martha's Vineyard 1995, what was Jaleel White doing? I was driving my little red jeep in the vineyard listen to Biggie "Give me one more chance."

So, I was a very '90s kid. I miss the '90s myself. I mean, I --

BALDWIN: What do you miss the most?

WHITE: Oh, man. I mean, that was -- that was such a big upswing in African-American film during that time. You know, John Singleton was like my hero. He made "Boyz in the Hood."

And, you know, I miss baggy jeans. I miss that people used to dance until they sweat.



WHITE: You know? Now everybody is cool.


BLACKWELL: All right. Explore the decade that brought us Urkel and "Friends" and "Seinfeld," the Clintons and those AOL discs that gave you a thousand hours per months.

PAUL: Oh, yes.

BLACKWELL: CNN's new original Series "THE NINETIES" starts tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

PAUL: You know, just because you're not the sitting president anymore it doesn't mean you can't stop and hold the baby and get a cute picture.


A six-month-old Giselle (ph) Jackinsky (ph) was apparently just too cute to resist for Barack Obama.