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Interview with Representative Bradley Byrne; What's Next After Health Care Bill Failure; Interview with Ernest Moniz; The World's Biggest Floating Solar Farm; Aired 14-14:30a ET
Aired July 18, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:13] PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight two campaign promises both unfulfilled. Trump's signature pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare now
defeated. What that blow means for the president's leadership as his poll rating sinks? Reaction from a Republican congressman.
And Trump called the Iran nuclear deal the worst ever and wanted it ripped up. But he's not admitted reluctantly that Tehran is complying. The man
who helped negotiate that deal, former Energy secretary Ernest Moniz, joins me live.
Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Paula Newton in for Christiane Amanpour in New York.
President Donald Trump has just been dealt one of the largest defeats yet. Republicans by Republicans. Now they admit they don't have the votes to
deliver on their years long promise of replacing President Obama's health care law Obamacare.
Now President Trump's new plan, let the healthcare system collapse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm certainly disappointed. For seven years I've been hearing repeal and replace from Congress. And
I've been hearing it lour and strong and then when we finally get a chance to reveal and replace they don't take advantage of it.
I have been saying that -- Mike, I think you'll agree -- for a long time let Obamacare fail it will be a lot easier. And I think we'll probably in
that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going
to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us, and they're going to say, how do we fix it? How do we fix it?
Or how do we come up with a new plan?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: So the defeat of the Republicans' plan could impact every aspect of the president's agenda, especially because Trump made the issue so
central to his campaign and his entire presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to win with health care, repeal and replace that garbage known as Obamacare. Obamacare to be replaced. And we will do it
and we will do very, very quickly. This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: And it comes almost exactly six months since he took office and his approval ratings hit historical new lows. Now only 36 percent of
Americans now approve of President Trump's performance in office, down from 42 percent in April, that's the lowest at the six-month mark for any
president in 70 years.
Bradley Byrne is a Republican congressman from Alabama. I spoke to him just before it became clear that Republicans would not even have enough
votes for their plan B, repealing the law now than -- now then crafting a replacement for later.
NEWTON: Congressman Byrne, thanks so much for joining us. President Trump was very direct saying, look, just repeal Obamacare. Let it fail. Do you
think that's the way things should go now?
REP. BRADLEY BYRNE (R), ALABAMA: Well, first, we have to see what's going to happen in the Senate. The Senate is going to try to put in the 2015
repeal bill into a -- as a substitute for what the House has passed. Let's see what happens there.
If the Senate can't get anything passed then there's not much left for us to do except to try to do some sort of a short-term rescue or as the
president suggested it's just going to fail of its own weight.
Now let's make sure we understand this. This program has been failing for three years now.
NEWTON: There is some kind of dispute about that, though. And of course it depends on the state that you're in. You're from the great state of
Alabama. You have a senator at the dinner with the president yesterday, discussing this bill that now looks like it's dead.
I mean, what is going on in terms of those Republicans that absolutely could not bring themselves to vote for this bill?
BYRNE: Well, we all campaigned on repeal and replace. I don't know how they can't bring themselves to vote for repeal and replace bill as we did
here in the House. Now I know it takes time to do that. You have to work through a lot of issues. We did that here in the House. They just need to
go there and do it in the Senate.
Now I would take issue with one thing that you said it is failing all over the country. It's failing more in some places than others, but they're
losing insurers everywhere, and in Alabama, as you say, we're down to one insurer and if that one insurer leaves and they continue to lose money in
the product they're offering then the people in Alabama are going to have nobody on the exchange to offer them insurance. And that's complete
failure for the people that I represent.
[14:05:03] NEWTON: OK. But the approval ratings for Obamacare are still better than the healthcare bill put forward by the Republicans. It's 58
percent at the end of the June. American saying we just don't like this bill.
BYRNE: They're not going to like failure either if Obamacare exchanges just fail all over the country or major parts of the country. So this is a
bad situation to be in for everybody in America, let's just put it that way.
NEWTON: Bring us into what's going on in your state. Now I don't mean getting into the weeds. I think it's just really sad in terms of the kinds
of stories that you must see on your doorstep each and every day in Alabama. The people that aren't being served by healthcare. Having said
that doesn't repealing just exacerbate that situation? Doesn't it make it worse?
BYRNE: No. If we give a repeal that pushes out for a year or two years, the time period in which it would go into effect, because that would give
us the time to come up with a commonsense replacement.
NEWTON: OK. But then there's a deadline. But then let's be clear. Even if that's true -- but even if that's true -- I'm sorry to interrupt,
Congressman. But even if that's true you're giving yourselves a self- imposed deadline then anyway, then you have a gun to your head while trying to draft another healthcare bill.
BYRNE: Yes, I don't like having a gun to my head or anybody's. That's not the way to do business but that may be what we're left with at the Senate
and the situation that they're in.
Look, there's no easy solution here. We knew that from the very beginning. We've been on a rescue mission on this program for months now and this
rescue missions is not over. I have 28,000 people in my district. They are on these Obamacare exchanges. I don't want that to fail for them. I
want to find something that works for them. And if the idea we had in the House doesn't work, let's find another idea. But sitting back and doing
nothing, I don't think is a good way to go.
NEWTON: Yes, you know what, I hate to put it this way but I know that your voters will put it this way. Who's to blame in all of this right now?
BYRNE: Well, I don't think the blame game works in this environment. But let's face it. The blame game starts when this program was passed in 2010
with no Republican votes and with a lot of the criticisms that we -- Republicans were lobbed at, coming through over the last few years. So if
you want to go back and say who's at fault here is the way this thing was put together in 2010 by President Obama and the Democrats.
NEWTON: OK. But the polls don't bear that out. The polls now show that at least half the country if not more actually believes Obamacare is
working and they don't like the bill that you guys have presented. You said yourself, it's been seven years now, repeal and replace. We're at the
11th hour, there is still no repeal, there still no replace.
BYRNE: We're going to have get repeal and replace. Whether we do repeal now and replace later we've got to somehow get to repeal and replace.
NEWTON: OK. Congressman, I appreciate your candor. Appreciate it.
BYRNE: Good talking to you.
NEWTON: Now to understand how the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare might affect the Trump administration's ongoing agenda. We're going to
talk to CNN political analyst and editor-in-chief of the "Daily Beast," John Avlon.
John, thanks so much for joining us. It has been a busy day especially with regard to healthcare but also in regards to the rest of the agenda.
If we deal first with a big, huge problem that is Obamacare the president's new, not-so new old strategy is let it fail, we'll then blame the Democrats
for it. Will this work?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, that's always been a negotiating strategy. And it's an attempt to not own the problem. The
primary problem Republicans are facing is that they have been so focused on opposing Obama and Obamacare over the time of his presidency that when they
finally have the political means, unified control of government, to replace it with something they didn't have a plan because they've been primarily
focused on opposition, not proposition.
Now the president today has said his plan B is to simply do nothing, to let the problems in the bill continue to mount and fester and hope that
Democrats take the political blame from that. That's a negotiating position. It may not translate too terribly well with politics because
Republicans are, with their base, going to own the failure to follow through on their plans and just sort of saying we'll let people suffer the
problems without doing anything to fix it isn't a solution at all.
We'll see if there's some possibility of a bipartisan plan. But there has been no bipartisan outreach in real terms and this president isn't
particularly well situated to do so.
NEWTON: OK. But let's go back here, John. He's got it, right? He's got Senate, he's got the House. I mean, I know he doesn't want the numbers he
wants there, but what does it say if he can't get this central promise fulfilled before 2018?
AVLON: Look, it's hugely significant because the base has been hearing this red meat rhetoric for a long time but now they're confronted with the
responsibility of governing, and the president needs to show he can move an agenda forward. It's not enough to simply say you've got a lot done. You
actually have to show it in real life terms, not rhetoric. And so it's a real strike against the administration.
I'll also say that this comes, you know, on virtually the same day that the Trump administration reluctantly apparently agreed to say that Iran had met
its part of the bargain at least nominally with regards to the Iran deal.
[14:10:03] These are two planks of Trump's campaign promises to his base. And to fail to deliver on those I think shows that it's much more difficult
to uproot President Obama's legacy than they wanted to give him credit for when certainly when it's faced with the reality of governing, it's going to
be a real problem for him come into '18. And it just means that there's a big goose egg when it comes to major legislative accomplishments in the
first six months of his presidency.
NEWTON: Yes, and John, you and I both know that the one thing that annoys the president possibly the most is saying that he can't do Obama's legacy.
He's going to undo it. He wants to win. You know he wants to win.
NEWTON: How does he get -- some people kind of say that look, he's out of touch. He doesn't know how to get these things done even though he's
written the "Art of the Deal." I mean, I'll just give you our Jeff Zeleny's reporting from a Republican close to the White House, saying that
even they were commenting that look, he was -- you know, yesterday was -- this week was Made in America Week. He had all those props at the White
House. He was playing with a fire truck and trying on a cowboy hat as the bill was collapsing. He has no clue.
AVLON: Yes. That's unfortunate but it's a problem of their own making. Look, I think -- I think, you know, the president needs to be focused on
moving forward an agenda, and as you point out doing a lot of distracted messaging or bunting that isn't focused on actually doing the job at hand
is the root of the problem.
I mean, we've reported that he even in private meetings have been confused about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. There is a downside of
having a president without any experience in policy, politics or public service, and we're seeing it. It's not all simply grandstanding in the act
of being president. You've got to actually do the job and that involves caring about policy and having the ability to shepherd it through to
NEWTON: Yes, and yet, you know, to quote President Obama everyone is all on the same team here. A lot of people hope that this White House can move
forward. One likely prospect is perhaps tax reform. What then of key pieces of his agenda?
AVLON: Well, look, you know, a lot of members of Congress were saying that they needed to get healthcare done to move to tax reform. And health care
was almost an impediment to that larger goal about which there is more agreement in the Republican coalition. And what's floated or plans that
verbose in greater simplification, lowering rates, presumably closing loopholes, all those details are always incredibly difficult to enact on
but again will they be able to marshal the political will to get that through? Because it's going to be very difficult to get a bipartisan
support for Republican vision of tax reform.
Something like infrastructure were there could be a broader bipartisan coalition, they've kind of kicked the can because it's expensive and
difficult to enact. But that is what they're going to be aiming for presumably in the fall but all the, you know, various plans and broad
outlines that have been floated haven't met, you know, the rubber meets the road reality of a specific plan that can be put forward by the president
and members of Congress and voted on.
We're a long way from that and the failure of healthcare hurts that momentum and decreases the credibility of Congress when it comes to
actually get anything done.
NEWTON: Yes, but like it has been for all administration, you've always got one that just knocks you over the head and hopefully instructs your
policy going forward.
John Avlon, we'll continue to parse this with you in the future.
NEWTON: Appreciate it.
AVLON: Thank you.
NEWTON: Now from broken promises on healthcare to broken vows on Iran's nuclear deal. President Trump regularly lambasted the agreement as the
worst deal ever. Now his administration is extending it. We will hear from the former U.S. secretary of energy, Ernest Moniz, who helped
negotiate the deal under Barack Obama.
[14:15:15] NEWTON: Now for the second time in six months, the Trump administration certified to Congress that Iran is complying with its
nuclear deal. Now for the second time President Trump dragged his feet to the very last minute, reluctant to sign off on the report.
The White House says that while Iran is following the letter of the agreement they are, and I quote here, "unquestionably in default on the
spirit of the deal."
And today the Trump administration announced new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program in support of terror groups.
So what will happen 90 days from now when it's time to recertify the deal once again? Barack Obama's Energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, was at the
table throughout the Iran nuclear negotiation, as a nuclear scientist himself, Moniz was deep in the weeds on what remains a very complex deal.
Secretary Moniz is back to his faculty post at MIT. And he joins me now from Cambridge.
I'm sure they're glad to have you, sir, but at this point we're glad to have you here, especially on a day when we learn that the Trump
administration and with Presidnet Trump himself that this recertification, if you will, was quite controversial and I'm going to put the presidents
criticism to you.
It seems that the only thing that was negotiated here was a nuclear deal that Iran now has free reign to cause trouble wherever it wants to do
except it can't have a nuclear bomb.
ESNEST MONIZ, FORMER U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: Well, of course, there's no secret here. We -- all we said that's the idea. This is a nuclear deal,
it is to remove the existential threat of a nuclear weapon. It is accomplishing that. It's accomplishing that by having produced frankly the
gold standard in terms of verification measures for the international inspectors.
Right from the beginning it was all we stated that we have to get this existential threat off the table and then we have to maintain and indeed
increase the pressure on all of the other activities that Iran is taking part in and it gives us a lot of --
NEWTON: OK, but, Secretary Moniz, you know -- you know the criticism here. You and I spoke the day after the deal and you did say that. You said
look, this is a win. It makes everyone more secure and safer. And yet, and yet since then, you know what the Trump administration is saying.
They are looking to Syria, looking to Yemen, looking to Iraq, looking to terror groups around the world, and saying -- and look at also the fact
that sanctions have been lifted, which means that Iran is reentering the economic fold which gives it so much more power and so much more influence
around the world. And it's a nuclear deal that allows them to do that.
MONIZ: Well, of course the deal was that they accept very, very stringent restrictions on what they can do in the nuclear arena. They accept
extraordinary verification measures and they get partial relief of sanctions. Sanctions only applicable to the nuclear issues. That is why
in fact United States both in the Obama administration and now on the Trump administration have indeed imposed additional sanctions on issues outside
the nucleus sphere. That's the way it works.
NEWTON: So you support --
MONIZ: And frankly it's not as though -- our problems with Iran in the region only started with the nuclear deal. Quite the contrary. This has
been going on for a very, very long time, many decades in fact, certainly going back to 1979 and even before.
NEWTON: So you support getting much tougher on Iran, though, the way the Trump administration seems to be wanting to. You know that that may
include walking away from the deal. What do you think will happen if they do walk away from the deal?
MONIZ: Well, first of all, I certainly don't endorse walking away from the deal. Walking away from the deal we walk alone. Our sanctions before were
effective only because the international community was aligned. If we walk away from the deal that won't happen again. We'll have the worst of both
If Iran walks away from the deal they will get hammered in terms of a global-global sanctions. It's frankly in everybody's interest to adhere to
the deal that we have to work with our allies, with the Gulf countries, with Israel, with our NATO allies to solve these under -- these many other
issues where we have a big problem.
Again, I remind you, the ability to engage in these regional activities from Lebanon to Yemen is -- they didn't seem to have a lot of financial
constraints in causing plenty of mischief before this deal.
NEWTON: It does certainly increase the handle and what they can do, and we've seen that ramp up.
I want to go -- just before we move on to other important topics here, do you believe that the Trump administration will continue to recertify that
deal or do you expect it to walk away? And has your successor Rick Perry spoken to you at all about any of this?
[14:20:01] MONIZ: Well, look, I think the ministration should recertify the deal as long as, in fact, there is compliance and the basis of
compliance comes from the international inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to whom we have given an unprecedented toolkit for
looking at Iran's activities and making sure they are there.
Now the IAEA by definition does not cast the final judgment, but they provide essentially all the data to --
MONIZ: In which one can judge the point.
NEWTON: But I just want to --
MONIZ: So as long as they're saying that --
NEWTON: But just to get to the --
MONIZ: That everything is happening --
NEWTON: Just to get to the -- sorry, just to get to the prediction part of it, though. Do you think they will continue recertify that ideal if is
MONIZ: I believe Iran will continue to comply with this deal because it is in their self interest to do so. I believe it's in our self-interest to
have the deal stand. And I can predict individual judgments but that that is the reality.
NEWTON: And Secretary Moniz, on North Korea as well. You know that the intercontinental ballistic missile that was fired, many people suggested
that was a game-changer. In your estimation both scientifically and politically, do you think it was a game-changer. And does that mean U.S.
policy has to change.
MONIZ: Well, it's a game changer in the sense that obviously they demonstrated that they could send a missile quite distance, specifically,
for example, reaching Alaska with a different trajectory.
On the other hand we should not think that it was a game changer in the sense that they have mastered all of the activities that would have to come
together to actually deliver a nuclear weapon. So the general consensus is that's still some years away. But nevertheless it's obviously a very, very
I personally ma of the persuasion that the United States should enter into discussions. I want to emphasize I did not say negotiations, into
discussions to see if we can find a pathway to productive, multilateral negotiations to resolve.
I remind you the Iran negotiation was also a multilateral negotiation which gives it great power and great strength. And will need that with the six-
parties in North Korea as well.
NEWTON: And it does seem that despite what the Trump tells us about that, that South Korea wants to move more in that direction.
Secretary Moniz, always a pleasure to have you on the program. Appreciate it.
MONIZ: Thank you, Paula.
NEWTON: Now the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement is a major break from global policy on climate change. It leaves a vacuum of
leadership which Beijing is only to happy to fill. After the break, we imagine a world where China makes believe on clean energy.
NEWTON: And finally imagine a world where our planet's largest polluter is also a leader in renewable energy. China is infamous for severe pollution,
with cities often lost in a shroud of smog but Beijing is plotting a future where clean energy is king.
Matt Rivers reports from China's coal country where a flooded industrial plain is now reborn with a bobbing blanket of solar panels.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Four years ago an old coal field flooded out, ground water helped turn it into a lake and it's not empty until 2016
when someone had an idea. Why not take a whole bunch of solar panel and put them right on that.
RIVERS (voice-over): Welcome to Huainan City, China, home to the largest floating solar farm in the world. Tens of thousands of panels soak up the
sunshine enough to fill more than 160 American football fields. Eventually they'll generate enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes for a year.
"We've invested about $45 million so far," says Yao Shaohua, deputy director of the project.
Initially, it is more expensive to build this way. Consider the fact that you have to take to a boat to do just about anything. But in the end,
floating solar panels can run more efficiently because they are cooled by the water underneath plus they're taking up unused space.
"The government won't allow us to just install panels wherever we want," says Yao. "These old coalfields wouldn't be used otherwise so it makes
The farm is about 90 percent done. The repetitive daily linking of buoyed panels, broken only by floating a finished product into the lake. It is
all part of a broad strategy by China, the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, to move away from the one cheap energy that's powered it for
so long -- coal.
Sure, it was cheap and efficient but it was also dirty and that's produced skies like this across the country, choked with a toxic smog. Coal still
generates more than half of the country's electric supply.
But the government has pledged hundreds of billions of dollars in things like wind and geothermal projects to fight that and solar projects alone,
the plan is for $150 billion to be fully invested by 2020.
The omnipresent pollution, though, was on full display during our trip to the floating farm. Air quality levels that day were about 17 times worse
than the World Health Organization says they should be.
And yet it made for an interesting dynamic. The toxic reality of China's current environment hanging above what they are trying to do to fix that.
Matt Rivers, CNN, Anhui Province, China.
NEWTON: And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at Amanpour.com.
Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.