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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Trump Rips Attorney General Fuels Talk Of Replacement; Trump Meets With Lebanese Premier; U.S. Senate Votes To Advance Health Care Bill. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired July 25, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. It is 8 p.m. in London, 9 p.m. Center European Time, wherever you're watching us around
the world. Welcome. This is CNN.
Let's get right to our breaking news, an incredibly busy afternoon in Washington with so much at stake for President Donald Trump. On the right
there, you are seeing the Senate floor.
By the way, second ago, John McCain, the senator from Arizona, the Republican from Arizona got a standing ovation from his colleagues on the
Senate floor. Of course, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He returned to Washington to take part in a vote on authorizing a debate on a new
health care bill.
Now John McCain is getting ready to speak anytime now. We will take that as well. But we are also awaiting a news conference at the White House and
it is with Donald Trump, the president, and Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister. They'll take questions from reporters and we'll, of course,
bring you their remarks live.
Now meantime, in Congress, as I was mentioning just a little bit earlier in reference to John McCain, one of Mr. Trump's biggest campaign promise is
being put to the test. Senators will vote on whether or not to move forward on health care reform.
And I also mentioned John McCain, the senator from Arizona, recently diagnosed with brain cancer will make that emotional return for the vote.
Now as if all of that weren't enough, I mentioned, obviously the health care vote, the news conference at the White House with the Lebanese prime
minister, if all of that weren't enough, you have this -- two key figures in the Russia investigation are answering questions on Capitol Hill.
Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and Paul Manafort, the ex- campaign chairman met separately with investigators behind closed doors. Mr. Trump for his part is ramping up public attacks on his own attorney
general, Jeff Sessions.
Raising suspicions he could fire Jeff Sessions as a way of getting at possibly the real target in all of this, the special counsel leading the
Russia investigation. Listen to this pointed remark by the president at a gathering of Boy Scouts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As Scout law says a scout is trustworthy, loyal, we could use some more loyalty, I will tell
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, with that in reference to Jeff Sessions. So much to talk about this hour. Let's bring in Michael Smerconish, host of "SMERCONISH"
here on CNN. I'm also joined by Fawaz Gerges, chair of Contemporary Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics. We'll discuss the visit of
the prime minister of Lebanon with Fawaz.
First of all, Michael, I want to ask you about Jeff Sessions. Is he going to -- is he laying the ground work? Is he trying to push out Jeff Sessions
or is he likely to fire him? I mean, what we should we expect there because he's making very, very public his criticism of his attorney
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hala, I think he wants him to quit. I mean, he has the power to fire him at any time, he hasn't done
that. But out of the blue, began last Wednesday, was a rambling interview that the president gave to the "New York Times" in which he said that he
regrets having appointed Sessions now knowing that Sessions was going to recuse himself.
Then he referred to him as the beleaguered attorney general in a tweet and then again in another tweet, he referenced him as being weak and wonders
why isn't he investigating Hillary Clinton?
So, you know, a line has been drawn in the sand of sorts and to remind your international audience, Jeff Sessions was the first member of the United
States Senate to climb on board with Candidate Trump at a time when very few people thought there was any prospect of Donald Trump being elected
president, much less winning the Republican nomination.
So, it's really stunning. It's a stunning comment, and you played that clip about loyalty with the Boy Scouts. And many of us in the states are
watching that and thinking, well, where's the loyalty that you owe to the first person of stature to jump on board with your campaign? So, it seems
pretty clear that he wants him out.
GORANI: But why now? He recused himself several months ago.
SMERCONISH: You're asking me now to read the Trump tea leaves, and I've given up because it's absolutely impossible sometimes to know where this
comes from. As I say, it came out of the blue last Wednesday.
[15:05:08] I can only surmise that this is now reaching a fever pitch. The president's consternation with the Russian probe, and he's looking for a
way to thwart it and saying to himself, if only Jeff Sessions hadn't recused himself, I would be able to get rid of Robert Mueller.
GORANI: Yes. But you have some high-level Republicans in Washington who have come out in support of Jeff Sessions. I mean -- what did you think
the effects of that would be?
SMERCONISH: Well, it's absolutely true. I think that there's now such a sharp division between the Republican Senate leadership and the White
House. I'm hard pressed to identify for you anyone in the Senate who is a Republican who stands with the president on this issue.
Remember, Jeff Sessions was a longstanding colleague for many of these individuals. They know him. Frankly, they know him much better than they
know the president of the United States.
So, does that give the president pause? It remains to be seen. But, you know, there's a school of thought here that says in his mind, if he can
replace Jeff Sessions by getting Sessions to quit, then whomever would step into that
position would not have recused themselves and perhaps he would fire Bob Mueller. If that should happen, Hala, perhaps we're headed for a
GORANI: All right. And we'll get back to that in a moment. I want to discuss with Fawaz Gerges, who is here in the studio with me this news
conference we're expecting with the prime minister of Lebanon and the president of the
United States, Donald Trump.
Now Fawaz, the prime minister of Lebanon wants one thing, among others but certainly at the much to his list is, please, United States, don't withdraw
several million dollars of funding for the Lebanese Army.
FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Absolutely. That's the priority for the Prime Minister Hariri. In 2006 and the present, the United States
has provided the Lebanese Security Forces was $1 billion. Lebanon receive $80 million a year.
And this is a major, major financial life support for the Lebanese armed forces. So, Hariri wants to convince Trump not to slash -- in fact there
are reports that Donald Trump --
GORANI: It's a tiny sum, though.
GERGES: Very, very small. That's why Hariri is trying to impress on Trump the importance of Lebanon given the fact that remember Lebanon is in the
heart of the eye storm, the Syrian civil war, the Israeli Hezbollah conflict.
GORANI: The refugee crisis.
GERGES: Refugee crisis.
GORANI: There are two billionaires talking to each other, right?
GORANI: And Donald Trump has relationships, has had in the past business relationships with very rich Arab --
GERGES: Lebanese as well.
GORANI: -- businessmen from the gulf and from the levant. I wonder what this means in terms of their personal relationship.
GERGES: Well, I mean, I think what we need to understand is that Donald Trump as we know, Hala, prioritizes the American doctrine, America first.
He does not really prioritize American foreign policy in terms of aid.
In fact, he has railed about how much the United States wastes on foreign aid. But the good news that the State Department and the Defense
Department are very committed, are very committed to the Lebanese Armed Forces because they realize that the Lebanese Armed Forces are not a tool
for Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Because there's so much pressure as you know in the Congress to say that the Lebanese Armed Forces are a subordinate tool for Hezbollah. So, Hariri
really in a day to pick a position.
I think he's going to succeed because Donald Trump will be convinced, I hope, by the State Department and the Defense Department about the
importance of this sum, very, very meager, humble amount.
GORANI: Michael Smerconish back to you. As we still continue to wait there for the president and the Lebanese prime minister, maybe the
president will get a very direct question. Are you going to fire Jeff Sessions?
SMERCONISH: Hala, I'll bet he will. The question is whether he'll answer it.
and keep in mind there has not been a conventional press conference. And so the American press corps gathered at the White House desperately want to
ask him questions about all of these recent developments pertaining to Jeff Sessions and Robert Mueller.
I'm sure pertaining to the health care vote that's taking place as we are speaking. Whether the president will engage on any of those issues remains
to be seen.
GORANI: I'm checking -- we have breaking news there, in fact, on the Senate motion. This is a procedural move to advance the debate to open the
debate. We're seeing now, Michael, by the way, the senator from Arizona, John McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer. He's addressing the
floor. Let's listen.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: -- worse for wear, I'm sure. I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body and for
the other 99 privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate.
I have been a member of the United States Senate for 30 years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another
profession that was profoundly rewarding, and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere.
My service here is the most important job I have had in my life.
And I'm so grateful, so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege, for the honor of serving here and the opportunities it gives me
to play a small role in the history of the country that I love.
I have known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American
politics. They come from both parties and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict.
They held different views on the issues of the day, and they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest. But
they knew that, however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure
the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.
Our responsibilities are important, vitally important to the continued success of our republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately
intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all.
The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America's
problems and defend her from her adversaries.
That principled mind-set and the service of our predecessors who possessed its come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world's greatest
I'm not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today. I'm sure it wasn't always deserved in previous eras either. But I'm sure these
there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.
Our deliberations today, not just our debates, but the exercise of all of our responsibilities, authorizing government policies, appropriating the
funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role, are often lively and interesting.
They can be a sincere and principled, but they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than at any time that I can remember. Our
deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we'd all agree they haven't been overburdened by greatness lately.
And, right now, they aren't producing much for the American people. Both sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of who shot first to
the historians. I suspect they will find we all conspired in our decline, either by deliberate actions or neglect.
We have all played some role in it. Certainly, I have. Sometimes, I have let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common
ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested
Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticized, but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our
enemies from doing their worst, isn't glamorous or exciting. It doesn't feel like a political triumph. But it's usually the most we can expect from
our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.
Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem- solving our system
does make possible, the fitful progress it produces and the liberty and justice it preserves is a magnificent achievement.
Our system doesn't depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections and gives us an order to our individual strivings that has
helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on Earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that. And even when it requires
us to do something less satisfying than winning, even when we must give a little to get a little, even when our efforts manage just three yards in a
cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to triumph.
I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so
doing better serve the people who elected us.
Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them.
MCCAIN: They don't want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.
Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order.
We have been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.
That's an approach that's been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side,
with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.
We're getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done.
And all we have really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Our health care insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We
Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven't found it yet.
And I'm not sure we will.
All we have managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn't very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.
I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments be offered. I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It's a
shell of a bill right now. We all know that.
I have changes urged by my state's governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill.
I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it. We tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind
closed doors, in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them that it's better than nothing.
That it's better than nothing?
Asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don't think that's going to work in the end, and probably shouldn't.
The administration and congressional Democrats shouldn't have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic
change as massive as Obamacare.
And we shouldn't do the same with ours. Why don't we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to
act? If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let's return to regular order.
Let the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out
of committee with contributions from both sides.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MCCAIN: Something that my dear friends on the other side of the aisle didn't allow to happen nine years ago.
MCCAIN: Let's see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side,
but that might provide solutions for problems Americans are struggling with today.
What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We're not getting done much apart.
I don't think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn't the
most inspiring work. There's greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don't require
abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.
The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We have seen it before. I have seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a
modest way with working on a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career and by far the most
This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our
cooperation are important.
Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public
passions of the hour.
[15:20:05] We are an important check on the powers of the executive. Our consent
is necessary for the president to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and, in many respects, to conduct foreign policy.
Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's subordinates. We are his equal.
As his responsibilities are (INAUDIBLE) many and powerful, so are ours. We play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and
the Cabinet and planning supporting foreign and domestic policies.
Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends upon cooperation among ourselves. The success of the Senate is important to
the continued success of America.
This country, this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good, and magnificent
country, needs us to help it thrive.
That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliation. We are the servants of a great nation, a nation
conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
More people live free, have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because
of our governing principles and because our government defended those principles.
America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty
than ever before in history.
We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter, and the greatest defender of that order. We aren't afraid. We don't covet other people's
land and wealth. We don't hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.
What greater cause could we hope to serve in helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the
dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice?
That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.
What a great honor, an extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in this body. It's a privilege to serve with all of you. I mean it. Many of you
have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does.
I have had so many people say such nice things about me recently, that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else.
(LAUGHTER) MCCAIN: I appreciate it, though, every word, even if much of it isn't deserved.
I'll be here for a few days, I hope managing the floor debate on the defense authorization bill, which I'm proud to say again is a product of
bipartisan cooperation and trust among the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
After that, I'm going home for a while to treat my illness. I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the
nice things you said about me.
MCCAIN: And I hope to impress on you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company.
Thank you, fellow senators.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
[15:24:34] GORANI: An emotional John McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona there. He spoke to his colleagues on the Senate floor there after his
cancer diagnosis. A diagnosis of brain cancer after doctors treated, you could
see a scar above his left eyebrow. Doctors were treating a blood clot above his eye and discovered that cancer.
He said that he appreciated all the colleagues from the Senate who reached out to him. Made a joke that perhaps he'd come back later and give them a
reason to regret having said all these nice things about him.
[15:25:06] He also appealed to senators to work in a more bipartisan way. He did vote to advance this health care legislation today but then
reiterated the fact that he would not support the Senate bill in its current form.
He also spoke more globally about the United States saying that the United States is a defender of freedom and a blessing to humanity, according to
Senator John McCain.
Michael Smerconish is still with us. I also want to bring in CNN's Tal Kopan in a moment. But Michael, first, what did you make of Senator John
McCain's address as we continue to watch the Senate floor. We're airing live images from Washington on the right-hand side of the screen. What did
you make of that address?
SMERCONISH: I thought it was a wonderful speech. I'm so glad that we carried it live. I wish him Godspeed. It did sound like a big --
GORANI: Apologies. Michael, we're seeing Donald Trump there and the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri. Let's take that live for our viewers
from the White House.
TRUMP: -- the motion to proceed on health care has just passed and now we move forward to truly great health care for the American people. We look
forward to that. This was a big step.
I want to thank Senator John McCain, very brave man. He made a tough trip to get here and vote. So, we want to thank Senator McCain and all of the
Republicans. We passed it without one Democrat vote.
And that's a shame, but that's the way it is. And it's very unfortunate.
But I want to congratulate American people, because we're going give you great health care. And we're going to get rid of Obamacare, which should
have been, frankly, terminated long ago.
It's been a disaster for the American people. Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. And thank you all for being here.
It is my honor to welcome Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon to the White House.
The prime minister and I have just concluded an extensive conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing Lebanon and its neighbors.
Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, al Qaeda, and Hezbollah.
The Lebanese people of all faiths are working together to keep their -- and you know this, and we have been discussing this at great length -- their
country safe and prosperous. They love their country, and they're going to keep it safe and prosperous.
Mr. Prime Minister, I want to commend you and your people for standing up for humanity in a very troubled part of the world. The ties between our two
countries stretch back more than a century, long, long relationships.
In 1866, American missionaries founded the American University of Beirut. Now, more than 150 years later, and with ongoing American support, this
university continues to educate generations of leaders in the region.
Today, our two countries seek to strengthen our relationship in many ways, including the pursuit of stability, mutual prosperity and peace.
What the Lebanese armed forces have accomplished in recent years is very impressive.
In 2014, when ISIS tried to invade Northern Lebanon, the Lebanese army beat them back. Since that time, the Lebanese army has been fighting continually
to guard Lebanon's border and prevent ISIS and other terrorists, of which there are many, from gaining a foothold inside their country. The United
States military has been proud to help in that fight and
will continue to do so. America's assistance can help ensure that the Lebanese army is the only defender Lebanon needs. It's a very effective
Threats to the Lebanese people come from inside as well. Hezbollah is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people and the entire region.
The group continues to increase its military arsenal, which threatens to start yet another conflict with Israel, constantly fighting them back.
With the support of Iran, the organization is also fueling humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. Hezbollah likes to portray itself as a defender of
Lebanese interests, but it's very clear that its true interests are those of itself and its sponsor, Iran.
I have repeatedly emphasized that Syria's neighbors in the Middle East must take responsibility for helping Syrian refugees until they can return home
and rebuild their country. The Lebanese people have led the way, accepting more Syrian refugees per capita than any other nation. It's not even
I want to thank the Prime Minister and the Lebanese people for giving shelter to those victimized by ISIS, the Assad regime, and their supporters
and sponsors, and pledge our continued support to Lebanon.
Since the start of the Syrian crisis, the United States has helped Lebanon support Syrian refugees with clean water, food, shelter, and healthcare.
Our approach, supporting the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible, is the best way to
help most people. America is proud to stand with those who have the courage to stand up to terrorism and take responsibility for affairs in
their own region.
The reliance and resilience of the Lebanese people in the face of war and terror is extraordinary. We honor the citizens of Lebanon who are working
to secure a future of peace, stability, and prosperity for their children.
Mr. Prime Minister, I'm grateful that you're here today. It's a big day in our country because of the vote that you just heard about. We stood and
watched the results on television before coming out, and you found it very interesting, I hope --
SAAD AL-HARIRI, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON: Yes, I did.
TRUMP: -- and very important. I look forward to working with you to strengthen our partnership and the enduring friendship between the American
and Lebanese peoples.
Thank you very much. Mr. Prime Minister.
AL-HARIRI: Thank you. Good afternoon. I had the honor and pleasure -- and the pleasure to hold a very good meeting with President Trump. I
appreciate his leadership and the United States' leadership in the world today.
We discussed the situation in our region and the efforts we, in Lebanon, are making to safeguard our political and economic stability while
I thank President Trump for his support to our army and security agencies, as well as his support to interfere in maintaining peace and stability
along our southern border, where our government is committed to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, as well as all resolutions.
We also discussed the pressures Lebanon is facing as a result of 1.5 million Syrian displaced in our country. I outlined to the -- to President
Trump my government's vision for dealing with this crisis with the support of the international community.
We also discussed economic prospects in Lebanon and our government's effort to jumpstart inclusive economic growth with a particular emphasis on job
I thank President Trump and the United States of America for their support to the Lebanese people, striving to keep their country a model of
moderation, dialogue, coexistence, and democratic governance in our region.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
Margaret Talev, please.
MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Thank you.
TRUMP: Hello, Margaret.
TALEV: Hi. Hi, Mr. President. Mr. Prime Minister, I'll have a question for you also in just a second, if you'll bear with me.
You spoke earlier today with "The Wall Street Journal." We've all seen those comments, but I think everybody here probably is hoping that you
could talk a little bit more about this.
You have called your Attorney General "beleaguered." You have criticized his decision to recuse himself on the Russia matters. And your, kind of,
catch phrase or motto before the White House was, "You're fired."
So I'm wondering if you would talk to us a little bit about whether you've lost confidence in Jeff Sessions, whether you want him to resign on his
own, whether you're prepared to fire him if he doesn't, and why you're sort of letting him twist in the wind rather than just making the call for him.
[15:35:01] TRUMP: Well, I don't think I am doing that, but I am disappointed in the Attorney General. He should not have recused himself
almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have,
quite simply, picked somebody else.
So I think that's a bad thing not for the President, but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency. And that's the way I
feel. Thank you.
TALEV: Thank you. Mr. Prime Minister, could you tell us what you think about the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar? This is something that has been of
great concern to the U.S. also in terms of resolving.
Do you think that Qatar is doing enough on terror? And if so, would you like to see President Trump increase the pressure on the Saudi coalition to
ease its blockade?
And, Mr. President, if you would give us any more of your thinking on, going forward, the path with Attorney General Sessions, and maybe your
timeline for making a decision, that would be great. Thank you.
TRUMP: You don't give up. That's OK.
AL-HARIRI: Thank you. I think there is an effort by the Kuwaitis. They're leading this effort. I think -- and I think they made some
We believe that dialogue is the best way in improving this relationship between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. I believe that maybe the United States
also could help in this -- in solving this issue in the Gulf.
DENISE (PH): I have one question for the President and also for Prime Minister. Congress introduced additional sanctions against Hezbollah last
week. What is your position towards these sanctions and on the role Hezbollah is playing in the region and Syria?
TRUMP: I'll be making my position very clear over the next 24 hours. We're going to see what is exactly taking place. I have meetings with some
of my very expert military representatives and others, so I'll be making that decision very shortly. OK? Thank you.
DENISE (PH): And about its role in Syria and the region?
TRUMP: Whose role?
DENISE (PH): Hezbollah's role.
TRUMP: I'll be talking about that tomorrow.
DENISE (PH): Prime Minister, (speaking in foreign language)?
AL-HARIRI: (Speaking in foreign language)
TRUMP: Blake Burman. Thank you. Hello, Blake.
BLAKE BURMAN, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: President Trump, hello. Thank you. Indulge us here for a second. Just to pick up
where Margaret -- the American people, I think, would like to know, do you feel that the Attorney General should indeed stay and (INAUDIBLE) do you
intend on (INAUDIBLE). Why should he remain as the Attorney General?
And, secondly, on a separate topic, with the healthcare vote that just came about, there is a still long ways to go. At what point do you feel that
Republicans, if they can't get something done, should just say, you know what, we gave it a go, let's move on to tax reform instead? Thank you.
TRUMP: I want the Attorney General to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like -- rarely have they ever
leaked before at a very important level.
These are intelligence agencies. We cannot have that happen. You know many of my views in addition to that, but I think that's one of the very
important things that they have to get on with.
I told you before, I'm very disappointed with the Attorney General, but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.
On healthcare, I'm extremely happy that we got this vote. This is -- they say, if you look historically, this is the tough vote to get. Now, we're
all going to sit together, and we're going to try and come up with something that's really spectacular.
We have a lot of options and a lot of great options. And the Republican senators really went out there. It's not easy when you have 52 senators
and you have a block of 48 voting against you.
[15:40:00] No matter what it is, no matter how good it sounds, it's very hard to get the kind of numbers that we got. We ended up with 51 votes --
51 to whatever, I don't know what it is. Yes, 51-50.
So we had two Republicans that went against us, which is very sad, I think. It's very, very sad -- for them. But I'm very, very happy with the result.
I believe now we will, over the next week or two, come up with a plan that's going to be really, really wonderful for the American people.
ObamaCare is a disaster. It's failing on every front. It's too expensive. It gives horrible coverage.
It was gotten by a lie, 28 times. It was a lie. You can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan -- all lies.
And the people are sick of it. And we're going to come up with a great healthcare that satisfies the needs of the people that we serve, which is
the people of the United States.
I will say -- and I said it right at the beginning -- healthcare is always difficult because you have to weed a very, very narrow path, like a quarter
of an inch wide, right down the middle. And if you go a little bit too far right, you lose three people on the left. And if you go a little bit too
far left, you lose five people on the right.
It is a very, very complex, and difficult task, but it's something I actually know quite a bit about. I want to just thank some of the
Republican senators who were really fantastic in getting us here, in particular John McCain for making the trip.
But I think you're going to have a great healthcare. This is the beginning of the end for the disaster known as ObamaCare.
Thank you very much.
BURMAN: And then, Mr. President --
AL-HARIRI: Charles (ph).
CHARLES (PH): And, Mr. President, how can the United States help Lebanon cope with the massive number of refugees -- of Syrian refugees, and is
there a way you can help facilitate the refugees' return to their home country?
TRUMP: Well, we are helping. And one of the things that we have made tremendous strides at is getting rid of ISIS.
We have generals that don't like to talk; they like to do. And we were with General Mattis last night, and the success they've had against ISIS is
We've made more progress in the last four or five months than previous -- really, I could say, the previous administration made in eight years. And
then we have to see what we have to see.
But I will tell you, ISIS in Syria, ISIS in Iraq, ISIS in other locations, we have made tremendous strides. Our military is an incredible fighting
force. And as you know, I let the commanders on the ground do what they had to do.
Before, they used to have to call in this beautiful house and speak to people that didn't know what was happening, where they were, what
locations, practically, probably never heard of the countries they were talking about or the towns. I let the generals do what they had to do.
And we have made tremendous plans. We were discussing it just before. We have made tremendous gains with respect to ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and other
AL-HARIRI: Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about Bashar al-Assad? What about Bashar al- Assad in Syria?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Assad.
TRUMP: I'm not a fan of Assad, OK? He will tell you that, because we hit --
TRUMP: We hit 58 out of 58 or you could even say 59 out of 59 when we launched the Tomahawk missiles. No, I am not a fan of Assad. I certainly
think that what he's done to that country and to humanity is horrible. So I have been saying that for a long time.
I am not somebody that will stand by and let him get away with what he tried to do, and he did it a number of times when President Obama drew the
red line in the sand. And then he should have crossed that red line because some horrible acts against humanity took place, including gas and
the killing through gases. That was a bad day for this country.
And I'd go a step further, that had President Obama gone across that line and done what he should have done, I don't believe you'd have Russia and I
don't believe you'd have Iran to anywhere near the extent, and maybe not at all, in Syria today. OK?
Thank you very much.
CHARLES (PH): (Speaking in foreign language.)
AL-HARIRI: (Speaking in foreign language.)
CHARLES (PH): (Speaking in foreign language.)
[15:45:10] AL-HARIRI: (Speaking in foreign language.)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, please. Please, Mr. President --
TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.
AL-HARIRI: Thank you so much.
TRUMP: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.
HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: The President of the United States hosting the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri. A lot to unpack here, but, of
course, the burning question on reporters' lips at that new conference for the U.S. President was about Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General that the
President himself called beleaguered and weak.
I am disappointed in Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump said. If he had said he'd recuse himself from the Russia investigation from the beginning, perhaps I
would've reconsidered naming him Attorney General. I would like the Attorney General to be much tougher on leaks.
Time will tell, he said, when asked whether or not Jeff Sessions should step down or whether he would consider dismissing him. Time will tell.
He also touched -- the two leaders touched on Lebanese politics, the Lebanese army, U.S. support for the Lebanese army.
The President of the United States also mentioned healthcare legislation. That the Republicans in Congress will come up with something that is,
quote, really spectacular, according to Donald Trump.
All right. Let's to analysis there of this news conference at the White House. David Swerdlick from "The Washington Post" joins me. And Fawaz
Gerges of the London School of Economics is here with me as well.
David, I'll start with you. Let's talk, obviously, Jeff Sessions here.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
GORANI: I'm disappointed in Jeff Sessions, but did not really answer with clarity whether or not he would be happy to see him step down or whether he
would move toward dismissing him.
SWERDLICK: Right, Hala. The President ultimately gave sort of a two- pronged reason for his disappointment in Attorney General Sessions. One was this idea that Sessions had not been tough enough on leakers coming
from within, as he said, within the Justice Department. And also that he thought, and he has said this on multiple occasions, that the Attorney
General should not have recused himself from the overall Russia investigation.
That said, as you point out, Hala, he did not really say or he kept his cards pretty close to his chest on whether or not he would get rid of or
fire or dismiss or ask for the resignation of Sessions. And I think part of the reason for that, Hala, is simply that he knows that Republicans
already went out on a limb in confirming Sessions.
That they would have to go through another confirmation process with another Attorney General nominee down the road if they had to replace
Sessions, giving Democrats another opportunity to question and grill the nominee. Not to mention the fact that Sessions, although he is maybe out
of step with his own administration right now, has a lot of supporters on Capitol Hill as a long-serving senator.
So this --
GORANI: But talk to me about the timeline here because Jeff Sessions --
GORANI: -- recused himself months ago. This -- the beginning there of this --
GORANI: -- of the tweets, of the public condemnation of Jeff Sessions by the President started just several days ago. What do you --
SWERDLICK: Indeed, Hala. And in fact --
GORANI: What should we read into that?
SWERDLICK: I think we read into that the President have a frustration with how the Russia story, the Russia investigation, the subsequent -- the
wiretap gate, the then discussion about firing the FBI James Comey, the sideline about unmasking, all of these sort of controversies have cropped
up basically starting with Attorney General Sessions recusing himself.
And all folks who are, you know, read into this, seem to suggest that, look, the President is frustrated and blames Attorney General for how this
spun out of control in terms of messaging and policy on the White House, even though, quite frankly, Attorney General Sessions has sort of
faithfully prosecuted the agenda that the White House has wanted to pursue. Sessions was the one --
GORANI: And he was one of the earliest supporters but people are asking now, some people are looking at this, saying --
GORANI: -- is the real target Bob Mueller, the Special Counsel, heading the Russia investigation?
SWERDLICK: I do think that's part of it. Part of it, yes, is that to -- in order for the President to get rid of the Special Prosecutor, he does
need to work through the Justice Department, headed by the Attorney General.
[15:49:54] But I also do think that the President, as we've seen by some of his other appointments in communications, particularly Anthony Scaramucci,
that he wants people out there forcefully defending him with what he describes as complete loyalty, not necessarily to their position in the
government but to him personally. And Sessions, in his view, has not carried that out. And that, I think, has been part of his political
frustration, not just his frustration with the legal investigation, Hala.
GORANI: Before we get to the President's pronouncements on the Middle East on ISIS and other things, the question is, can Jeff Sessions -- I mean,
does he have no choice now but to step down? How can he stay in his current position after everything that's been said, including at the White
House minutes ago, "I am disappointed in Jeff Sessions"?
SWERDLICK: So I think it's very possible that, in the near future, we may see Sessions go, but Sessions knows what the White House knows. Again,
that even if Sessions is a problem for the President and even if the President ultimately makes a move to get rid of him, which they very well
may do given all of these statements and tweets in the last several days, that it creates a whole other set of problems for the White House.
One, getting someone else confirmed. And two, just the political perception that, look, this President is willing to, first, get rid of his
FBI Director, then his Attorney General, just to somehow put the brakes on his this Russia investigation. Whether the investigation ever leads to
anything, it does give a strong appearance that the President is desperate to impede the progress of the Special Prosecutor.
GORANI: All right. Stand by, David. Fawaz Gerges is here. Let's talk a little bit about what the Lebanese Prime Minister and the U.S. President
said about the U.S.'s support for the Lebanese army. It was one of his -- one of the top items on his to-do list, was to get the United States to
recommit to supporting the Lebanese army financially.
Now, Prime Minister Hariri said, yes, the U.S. has committed to supporting us, but didn't give a figure and didn't go into detail.
FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE: No, not really but the fact is that
Donald Trump reaffirmed American support for the Lebanese armed forces and their security forces is a very, very big priority for Prime Minister al-
Hariri. And Hariri is a very happy person today because it's about $80 million.
When he was asked, al-Hariri answered in Arabic. He said I think the same, similar sums of money will be provided to the Lebanese armed forces, but
it's the Lebanese army and the American Defense Department will determine the nature of the weapons.
Secondly, I think Donald Trump also reaffirmed the support for the Lebanese government and the way it has treated the Syrian refugees, 1.5 millions,
yet he really has not said what the United States has -- how the United States has helped the Lebanese government to cope.
A country of 4 million people has accepted 1.5 million people. What has Donald Trump done for the refugees? In fact, his ban against refugees
speaks volumes about his praising for the Lebanese government.
Finally, he's heard that, somehow, spectacular major progress has been made against ISIS.
Hala, let's remind the audience worldwide, it was President Barack Obama that has constructed this strategy. What Donald Trump is doing is carrying
out what Barack Obama has done.
GERGES: And this particular campaign has been going on since the summer of 2014. And the fight against ISIS is a long, long, prolonged, and complex
GORANI: And it's not --
GERGES: -- in both Iraq and Syria.
GORANI: And it's not over, whether Mosul is retaken or not.
GORANI: Much more complex, certainly going forward. Fawaz Gerges, as always, a pleasure having you.
To our David Swerdlick as well, of "The Washington Post," thanks for joining us.
We're going to take a quick break on CNN. We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.
[15:55:11] GORANI: Welcome back, everybody. Breaking news from Washington. The President of the United States said he was very
disappointed in his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, just minutes ago at the White House. He was hosting the Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri.
Also, this afternoon in Washington, we saw John McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona, making appearance on the Senate floor. It was an
emotional speech he gave to his colleagues at the Senate. That's after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Doctors were treating a blood clot above his left eye when they found the cancer. He said he was going back home in Arizona to received treatment.
All that against the backdrop of a healthcare legislation advancing. Senators in Washington voted 51 to 50. The tiebreak vote was Mike Pence,
the Vice President, to advance the debate.
Our Tal Kopan has been following today's live events, including the movement on healthcare.
So what happens next because this is -- was a procedural step? It was essentially voting to go forward with the debate.
TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right. And the real answer to what happens next is a little bit of nobody knows. I mean, there's a rough
outline of what's going to come next, which is there's going to be a series of amendments that will be voted on. Some of them will actually require 60
votes to move forward depending on some sort of procedural hurdles that come, but it's going to be a bit of a show.
You're going to have the amendments that Republicans are going to allow, but Democrats have already promised to make this a painful process for
Republicans. So who knows what types of tricks they might have up their sleeves?
So we're in for several hours, probably some late nights of senators voting on these amendments. And because of that, no one has any idea what the
final bill is actually going to look like when they get around to vote on a final bill.
GORANI: All right. Tal Kopan, thanks very much. She's in Washington with the very latest on a very, as I mentioned, very packed news day in
This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. I'm Hala Gorani. Thanks, everyone, for watching.
We'll have a lot more from the U.S. capital. The U.S. President, as we mentioned, hosting Saad Hariri. But, of course, there is the big news
about Jeff Sessions, with the U.S. President, once again, criticizing his Attorney General publicly, saying I am disappointed in Jeff Sessions.
A lot more analyses and news coming up after the break. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.
[15:59:58] RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: Closing bell ringing on Wall Street. No records for the Dow, but they're the S&P and the Nasdaq.