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Trump Bans Transgender Service Members; Senate Back in Session After Repeal and Replace Fails; Russia Talks Retaliation If Trump Signs Sanctions Bill; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- the president opened up here? If there are thousands of transgender people serving in the military right now, what happens to them? How do you force them out?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a great question, John. You know, the president is like a bull in a China shop issuing these -- well, I guess it's tweet law because he's changing the laws of the United States by Twitter declarations. In October of 2016 --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You've coined a new phrase there.

CALLAN: Tweet law. Yes.

HARLOW: There you go.

CALLAN: This particular change is kind of shocking because in October of 2016, the Department of Defense issued an extensive series of regulations about how to integrate transgender people into the military, how to recruit them. And the military has been changing to do that. And now all of a sudden by Twitter declaration now, he is saying, nobody can serve in the military who is transgender.

Well, what about the ones who were recruited in October and have changed their lives based on what the Department of Defense said? I have no idea how he's going to implement this but I can -- I have the feeling the courts are going to strike it down.

HARLOW: Errol, let's pause for a moment and consider the fact that this may be political more than anything. Here is what Jonathan Swan of Axios just wrote about it.

"This forces Democrats in rust belt states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin to take complete ownership of this issue. How will the blue-collar voters in these states respond when their senators are up for re-election in 2018?" Your thought, Errol?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's an interesting analysis. I think, though, it's probably applied from the outside rather than derived from the inside. I have a hard time thinking that the president sitting with his generals at the Pentagon said, you know what we're going to do in order to sort of help this one and that one, and next year's senatorial races? We're going to sort of take this possibly illegal action, this reckless kind of, you know, broad declaration that's going to inflame, by the way, the LGBT community I think rightly so, as a matter of fact.

It's going to sort of upend not just the operations of the Pentagon but, you know, establish the civil rights law. You know, you can't just declare a class of people who is going to get disparate treatment. That is the very definition of discrimination and the courts don't like that.

BERMAN: Well, you know, the president said he did this on the advice of his generals. We need to hear a lot more from him and the Pentagon on this specifically.

Jim Sciutto, I can sense you almost leaping through the screen. You want to get in on this conversation.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Just this point, a reminder. The U.S. military is an all-volunteer military. Right? There's no draft. Everyone who serves serves as a matter of choice. And everyone who is serving today is serving in the midst of America's two longest wars in its history, in Iraq and Afghanistan, two deadly wars that have both resulted in thousands of lost American lives and many tens of thousands horribly injured American service members.

So this is a ban that will affect and if carried through expel and block volunteers, people who are volunteering to serve at a time of great cost to all American service members. That's a fact.

HARLOW: It is a fact indeed. Thank you all very much for sticking with us. Certainly a lot to get through this morning.

BERMAN: All right. So they are back and now set for battle. The Senate is in session right now. You are watching the debate on health care. We will bring you an update about what has failed so far, what might pass or fail or who knows going forward.


[10:37:47] BERMAN: All right. Happening now you're looking at live pictures from the Senate floor. The senators are debating health care. They're right in the middle of it right now. They voted to allow debate. Then overnight they knocked down an effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now soon perhaps a vote on repeal only.

Let's get to MJ Lee for us on Capitol Hill. Let's find out what's headed up next.

MJ, what are you learning?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: First of all, I want to talk about what the Democrats are thinking today. Obviously, they're not happy that this is where we find ourselves. The Republican efforts have stalled for so long that they were getting hopeful that Mitch McConnell would not find the 50 votes. Of course, yesterday he barely, barely did.

Now what they are looking forward to, even though this is not an ideal situation, is to make the Republicans as miserable as possible. They want to propose a flood of amendments in the coming days and essentially force Republicans to take a series of very harmful votes, votes that I guarantee you will make it into future political attack ads.

One aide told me yesterday -- a Democratic aide told me yesterday that they plan to be extremely aggressive, that this is going to be a full on no-holds-barred effort. Another Democratic aide telling my colleague Phil Mattingly that they want to make this process so painful that voting no on the final product will be the only thing that provides relief for them.

Now having said all that, Republicans still do want to get to some kind of final product that will get the 50 yes votes. And what they want do is get something, anything out of the Senate so that this bill, whatever the bill is, gets sent to the House and they can hash out the differences. But Democrats I can tell you are already rolling their eyes at the suggestion. Listen to what Chuck Schumer this morning on the Senate floor.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: The differences between House Republicans and Senate Republicans are virtually irreconcilable. So what is the point of a conference? You can imagine a conference that turns into an endless game of hot potato. The Republican leader in the Senate passing the potato to the House. The Republican leader of the House passing the potato back to the Senate because neither wants to be responsible for what is inevitable, the demise of Trumpcare.


LEE: Now I can tell you even Republicans will privately acknowledge that this hot potato dynamic is definitely real.

[10:40:07] A lot of Senate Republicans feeling right now that they do not want to be holding on to this hot potato for any longer than they have to.

HARLOW: I'm just picturing that. You know. Hot potato.

MJ, really quickly to you. Any reaction from any of the Republican senators, specifically Senator Lisa Murkowski, to the president's public lashing out at her this morning?

LEE: Well, I'm not aware of whether the senator herself has reacted to this tweet. But I will tell you, look, there's a lot of grumbling among Senate Republicans and House Republicans, too, because they feel like, look, they are really going out on a limb to try to get something done on health care because the president has been so forceful in demanding that they get something done and every time that they take a difficult vote, they do something that they feel like it's politically potentially harmful for them. They're not really sure that the president has their back. Now remember when the House passed its version of the repeal Obamacare

bill a couple of months ago, the president a few weeks later, after having had a celebration in the Rose Garden, he went and called it a mean bill. Essentially a lot of these Senate Republicans are sort of dreading the next couple of days. And they are really not sure, does the president in the White House, will he have our backs if we vote for whatever bill they end up agreeing on in a couple of days?

HARLOW: MJ Lee on the Hill, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.

Ahead for us, Russia firing back after the U.S. overwhelmingly -- the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly votes to impose new sanctions. A live report from Moscow is next.


[10:45:56] HARLOW: Right now some of America's strongest allies speaking out against U.S. policy. This just after lawmakers passed a bill in the House at least to slap big sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran. European Union responding, saying, "America first cannot mean that Europe's interests come last."

BERMAN: As for Russia, a much harsher tone. Moscow now in talks of retaliating against the United States if the president signs the bill.

CNN's Clare Sebastian live in Moscow with the very latest.

Clare, what are the Russians saying?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we had a lot of comments coming out. It's getting a lot of attention today both in the media and from various different Russian officials. We heard from the Kremlin just a couple of hours ago on a regular call that they hold.

Well, John, as the Kremlin spokesman saying this is sad news for Russia-U.S. relations. He would not take any questions on this. He said they are studying it. It's still a draft bill. And any final decision on what to do would be taken by President Putin.

But some of the strongest comments that we got today came from the deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov. I want to read you some of what he said, quoted by a Russian news agency. He said, "What is happening does not fit the framework of common sense. The authors and sponsors of this legislation are taking a serious step towards the destruction of prospects for normalizing relations with Russia."

So you really get the sense there were kind of an inflection point for how Russia views the Trump administration. Of course when it came in, there were some hopes that there would be a, you know, willingness to look perhaps a lifting or relaxing sanctions. Now we see that the opposite may be taking place.

And the real talk here is about the issue of retaliation. What Russia might do next. One prominent Russian lawmaker took to Facebook today to call on Moscow to come up with a response that would be quite painful for the Americans. We don't know exactly what he means by that. But we do know that Russia has some degree of unfinished business when it comes to retaliating to U.S. sanctions. When the U.S. confiscated several of their diplomatic compounds in December and expelled 35 diplomats over election meddling, they did nothing.

And that was widely seen as a way of kind of leaving the door open for the Trump administration to be more friendly to Russia. Now it seems the political appetite here for doing something, for retaliating in some way seems to be growing.

BERMAN: We'll see if the president signs that bill. The White House not crystal on that just yet.

Clare Sebastian, thanks so much.

Shocking research on traumatic brain injuries in football players. We'll have new details next.


[10:52:27] BERMAN: All right. Alarming results from the largest study ever linking football to the generative brain disease called CTE. Andy Scholes has this news in the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Now researchers at Boston University studied the donated brains of 111 deceased former NFL players. And they found that 110 of them were found to have the degenerative brain disease CTE. That's more than 99 percent.

Now in total, CTE was diagnosed in 87 percent of the 202 former football players that were studied. It included high school all the way to college players to pros.

CTE is believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the head. It can only be diagnosed in someone after death. And it's important to note, though, that in the study many of the donated brains came from former players and their families who were worried about CTE while the player was still alive.

Now the lead author of this study said there are still many questions that remain unanswered like how common is this and how many years of football are too many.

The NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and the league will continue to work with a wide-range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes.

All right. Another NFL news, the Dallas Cowboys cut wide receiver Lucky Whitehead on Monday after reports that he was arrested for shoplifting last month. Now Whitehead said that it wasn't true and the cops in Virginia had the wrong guy. And he wasn't lying. In a statement, police say the man who was arrested didn't have I.D. but he provided Whitehead's name, birth date and Social Security number. The police now admit they got it all wrong.

The Cowboys, though, will not be bringing Whitehead back. Reporters asked Cowboys' head coach Jason Garrett multiple times why other players on the team who are dealing with other legit off-the-field issues aren't being treated like Whitehead.


JASON GARRETT, COWBOYS HEAD COACH: Guys, this will be the last time I'll say it. I appreciate your interest in it. We made a decision yesterday in regards to Lucky Whitehead that we think is in the best interests of the Dallas Cowboys. We're standing by that decision. We're going to move forward.


SCHOLES: All right. Finally it was an amazing birthday for a special 10-year-old Cubs fan at Wrigley Field yesterday. Daniel Rodriguez, he has Down syndrome and his favorite player, Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras, the two met months ago, immediately became pals. Daniel, as you see there, getting a big hug from Contreras on the field along with a ton of Cubs swag.

And to make things even better, guys, Contreras then went out there in the very first inning and hit a three-run homerun. The Cubs would go on to beat the White Sox 7-2. So just an all-around special day for Daniel out there at Wrigley Field.

BERMAN: That is so awesome. And good for Daniel. I -- you always see this.

SCHOLES: Always.

[10:55:05] BERMAN: There's something like karmic about this type of thing where the players always seem to hit a homerun.

SCHOLES: Yes. It seems like they're locked in even more when they're doing special things before the game like that.

HARLOW: They do indeed. Andy Scholes, thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: Good incentive. Not that we even need it to do good and special things.

HARLOW: That is true as well.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has left the building, the building being the White House where he was moments ago from what we're told is this routine meeting but well, something else happened.

BERMAN: Honest to God, how routine can things be for Jeff Sessions right now when he comes under new repeated attacks from the president of the United States? New ones just about an hour ago. We're following all the fast moving details. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)