Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Poses A New Threat To The U.S. After A Successful Icbm Test That Could Reach The Mainland. General Kelly To Start Working Tomorrow As The New White House Chief Of Staff That Opens A Job Vacancy For The Department Of Homeland Security Where It Is Rumored That Jeff Sessions Could Possibly Take The Place; Putin Retaliates To Looming U.S. Sanctions; HHS Secretary Refuses To Say Trump Will Let Obamacare Implode. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 30, 2017 - 14:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. A new threat to the U.S. --


WHITFIELD: -- North Korea says it will deploy a "Firm action of justice" against the U.S. if sanctions on the reclusive regime continue. This threat coming just two days after Kim Jung-on tested a ballistic missile that experts say could one day reach the U.S. Mainland.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm convinced that North Korea has never moved at the speed that this leader has.

WHITFIELD: And early this morning, the U.S. Military said it successfully tested a missile designed to intercept that type of threat, and sent two bombers over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force, all of this comes as the person in charge of protecting the homeland is leaving his post. We will discuss what it means when a general becomes the president's right-hand man.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: The president wants to go a different direction, Wants a little bit more discipline, a little more structure in there. You know that he enjoys working with generals.

WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, the death toll from Venezuela's violent political protests rise.


WHITFIELD: This morning, a candidate in that crucial election is shot dead in his home and police are investigating another shooting. We go live to Caracas. But first --


WHITFIELD: -- we begin with the growing tensions between the U.S. And North Korea.


WHITFIELD: On the heels of ballistic missile test, the rogue nation is threatening firm action against the United States if it pursues sanctions. Meanwhile, as we just mentioned, the U.S. said it conducted a successful test of its own anti-missile defense from Alaska. This is video from that test.

The THAAD System as it is called intercepted a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean. It is the 15th successful test of this kind.


WHITFIELD: Just last hour, Vice President Mike Pence weighed in, affirming all options are on the table for dealing with North Korea. We have a team of --


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've continued provocations by the rogue regime in North Korea are unacceptable, and the United States of America is going to continue to marshal the support of nations across the region and across the world to further isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically but the era of strategic patience is over.


WHITFIELD: All right. We have a team of correspondents covering this for us. Diane Gallagher is in Washington, Alexandra Field is in Seoul, South Korea. Alexandra, let's being with you. What are you hearing today from North Korea?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, North Korea continues to respond and frankly they continue to celebrate what they see as a tremendous victory; they had put out that video touting the success of the launch of their second ICBM. This is a missile that they say could strike within the Mainland USA. Experts have estimated it could hit anywhere from L.A. to Chicago.

And they are now sending another warning to the U.S. saying that if the U.S. continues to enforce sanctions against North Korea, they will respond with firm action. We've had more response from the U.S. administration officials say with regard to that ICBM test as well. The president, again, turning his attention to China with a tweet that says --

TEXT: We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem.

FIELD: The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. NIKKI HALEY also adding in this, we are done talking about North Korea. China is aware they must act.

FIELD: And Fredricka, as you point out, Vice President Mike Pence also saying that China should do more. Of course, they're all talking about the economic relationship that China has with North Korea.

Earlier this year officials in Beijing said that they had slashed coal imports from North Korea. But, of course, the trade relationship between those two countries does continue. and, of course, China is the biggest economic partner for North Korea. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, we have heard top administration officials including the president saying that it falls on China, that China is the one with the leverage to rein North Korea in.

The response from Beijing, really, hasn't changed. What we've heard from them since this ICBM was tested two days ago is similar to what we've heard from them before, a condemnation of the fact that North Korea was launching another missile, but a call again for restraint from all sides, asking all sides not to raise the tension that has been mounting now for months over the peninsula.

Beijing has proposed what they see as a solution, a freeze on North Korea's nuclear and missile program in exchange, they would want the U.S. in South Korea to agree to stop these military exercises, which provoke and raise the ire of the North Korean regime. That's a non- starter for officials in the U.S.

And just to prove how much of a non-starter that is, in the immediate aftermath of that ICBM launch, we did see the U.S. Military working with the South Korean military to do their own missile launch drills. You also saw them testing that missile defense system. And in another move, that is sure to --


-- anger again the regime in Pyongyang, you have then flying B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula just today, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK, Alex. So, let's also check in with Diane there in Washington. We just heard from Pence, but what else are we hearing from the Trump administration?

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Fred, several different approaches here including that tweeting that Alexandra just mentioned. We will get to that in a minute. But all of this does echo what Vice President Pence said this morning in Estonia that all options are on the table for the United States when it comes to North Korea.

Now, as part of that continuing show of force in the wee hours of this morning, U.S. Forces said that they successfully tested the THAAD System, a ballistic missile was launched from Alaska has detected, tracked and intercepted over the Pacific Ocean, it's going to irritate China which, of course, considers the THAAD System a direct threat to their own security, mainly, because components of it are rolling into South Korea now.

No response from Beijing on that test yet. And we're probably not going to get a response on President Trump's tweets accusing China of basically doing nothing to solve the North Korea threat, and implying there could be consequences in trade as a result. China, of course, did issue a statement about North Korea's ICBM launch, calling for the country to stop escalating those tensions.

The trade between North Korea and China, though, is rising. Senator Dianne Feinstein on a "Face the Nation" today calling North Korea a clear and present danger to the United States. And she hopes that --


FEINSTEIN: I think the only solution is a diplomatic one. I'm very disappointed in China's response, that it has not been firmer or more helpful. And I think that the administration, and this is one of the reasons that I hope General Kelly will be able to be effective, even beyond a chief of staff, is to begin some very serious negotiation with the north, and stop this program.


GALLAGHER: And negotiation is the key there. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tweeting this morning, done talking about North Korea and that China has to act --


GALLAGHER: -- she pointed out that allies, Japan and South Korea have to increase the pressure because it's not just a U.S. problem, it's something that's going to require an international solution.


GALLAGHER: And we should point out that when the U.S. flew those B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula, Fred, they were joined by Japanese and Korean fighter jets.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dianne Gallagher, Alexandra Field also from Seoul, thank you so much, ladies.

All right. Let's talk more about this with Gordon Chang, author of 'Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World'. Also with me, Balbina Hwang former State Department Official for East Asia and Pacific Affairs. Good to see both of you.

So, Gordon, you first. North Korea threatening "A firm action of justice" how seriously should the U.S. be considering that language?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR: Well, at this particular time, you know, this is just standard operating procedure for the North Koreans. They don't want sanctions so they're going to say things like that.

But once they become convinced about the reliability of their arsenal, they're probably going to use it to blackmail the U.S., to break the treaty with South Korea, to take our 28,500 troops off the peninsula because that will permit them to realize a long-held goal which is to absorb the South Korean state and rule all of Korea.

And so, therefore, we've got to be concerned that this is just a taste of things to come, that North Korea will use their arsenal to blackmail us. WHITFIELD: So Balbina, when the president tweets out that China has

disappointed him, in the issue of North Korea. Is that a shot to the foot to the U.S. or is that the right kind of response to North Korea and its actions?

BALBINA HWANG, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOR EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: Well, it's taken President Trump only six months to figure out that China is not the solution to the North Korea problem. This is something that was emphasized and approached taken by the previous two administrations over 16 years. So President Trump is catching on actually a little faster.

Look, the road to Pyongyang does not go through Beijing. And I think it's time that we stopped relying on China and we actually take China out of the picture. China will not change its policies towards North Korea because its fundamental long-term national interest is in not doing so.

WHITFIELD: And what about, Gordon, this use of the U.S. missile defense that it was a successful test, is that response enough or is that an effective means of protecting the U.S. against whatever North Korea has in its missiles?

CHANG: The U.S. has the world's most sophisticated missile defense system, not only THAAD but also all sorts of things that we can bring to bear. But nonetheless, the North Koreas can overwhelm it. And earlier this year, they fired four missiles at the same time which was a message to us that no matter how good our missile defenses are, they will be able to overcome them.

And until we get directed energy weapons, which is some way down the road, we got to be --


-- concerned that the North Koreans will be able, one way or another, to defeat our missile defenses. It's good that we have them and we may be able to knock down a few missiles but North Koreans can produce missiles faster than be we can shoot them down.

WHITFIELD: Balbina, is it your view that North Korea can overcome the missile defense?

HWANG: Well I think, really, missile defense system is not 100 percent foolproof but I think we have to be a little bit more careful about what we're talking about. It's not clear to me that -- certainly North Korea does not currently have the capability to attack any of the mainland, U.S. and I doubt that North Korea ever would.

In the same sense, does any of us really think that China or Russia might actually lob missiles at the united states? Possibly. And I think we ought to have that concern but it's not really likely. The point is, is that, South Korea is in immediate firing range and not necessarily just North Korean missiles but North Korea as a threat in this conventional military, and unconventional, including biological and chemical and cyber. So we really have to talk about threats to our allies in the region as well as the homeland.

And, Gordon, Kim Jong-un has launched more ballistic missiles than his father, his grandfather. And there's been an incredible spike just within the first six months, seven months of this year during the Trump administration. What's your view as to what he is trying to prove or convey to the world?

CHANG: Well, he's trying to prove that he can overcome our defenses, that he can hold us to ransom. And as I mentioned, I'm sure that one way or another, he will use them to blackmail us. But we got to remember about his missiles, he's making a lot of fast progress. We need to ask a question. How come he is able to do all of these things now?

And I think part of it is because he's getting help from the Chinese. You know, the missiles that were fired on July 4th and on Friday were brought to the site by Chinese transporter erector launchers and North Korea's most advanced missiles, not the ones on Friday and the 4th, but most advanced missiles, look like they are variance of China's JL- 1 submarine-launched missile. We need to ask the Chinese how come the North Koreans have got missiles that look like they are Chinese in origin?

WHITFIELD: So, Balbina, you said road from Pyongyang doesn't go to Beijing. But with that premise, is that what President Trump is talking about when he says China is a disappointment, that perhaps it may be helping to facilitate these missiles?

HWANG: No. Well, unfortunately, I don't think that the world's focus is on that connection and I think Gordon is exactly right. We should be taking a much more closer look at the contributions of China, and not just China but Russia as well. Two North Korea's nuclear missile development.

I think what President Trump and everybody else is focuses on is China's economic leverage over North Korea. And certainly, China has the most relative economic influence. But we ought to separate out now the help and assistance that is coming from China and Russia and other countries and target that. And that's what I meant by, we can't rely on Beijing to help us because it has different goals.

WHITFIELD: All right. We will leave it right there. Balbina Hwang, Gordon Chang, thanks so much to both of you, appreciate it.

CHANG: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. This breaking news, a candidate in Venezuela's controversial election has been killed as voters head to the polls today to choose a new assembly with the authority to rewrite the constitution. Authorities are investigating the death --


WHITFIELD: -- of Jose Felix Pineda, a loyalist to President Nicolas Maduro, who was shot inside his home last night. Meanwhile, the opposition is defying the government's ban on protests with sporadic clashes in the streets and the death of a youth opposition party leader is also under investigation. CNN's Paula Newton joins me now --


WHITFIELD: -- from Caracas. So, Paula, there's a lot going on, very volatile situation.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And you're getting indication from some of the video you're seeing at the fierce resistance of authorities whether it's the national guard --


NEWTON: -- the police or the military are putting up. Now remember, the opposition has boycotted this vote. They wanted to be out here on the streets of Caracas and elsewhere to really try and hamper that vote going forward; that hasn't happened. In fact, the opposition has had to pushback.

And we got indications to why, just a few minutes ago here, Fredricka, and as you can see, Fred, from some of the video we're showing you, every time the protestors try to advance, they are met with what is the kind of police presence, military presence, national guard presence that we haven't seen in days. We can now smell the tear gas and we're several floors up here at our live location --


NEWTON: -- so imagine what it's like on the ground. For that reason, opposition now pushing back and trying to just figure out what their next move is as the voting continues around the country. Fred?


WHITFIELD: And now, tell us about this candidate who has been killed and how intimidating is this for voters?


NEWTON: Well, it is intimidating for everyone. And it has to be said, Fred, these is what people deal with every day. The details behind this are quite murky. Apparently, he was shot several times in this home.

[14:15:00] He was a candidate, a Maduro-backed candidate, he was a fairly minor candidate.


NEWTON: And it's hard to know, is this random violence? Was this a political assassination? Again, the attorney general's office is looking into it. Again though, Fred, it underscores the point --

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: -- no matter if you're a voter or a politician here, this is an incredibly unstable situation right now. And for that reason, many people we spoke to today are just staying home and just trying to stay, in terms of the safety and wait to see what happens as the other shoe drops from this vote.

WHITFIELD: All right. Paula Newton in Caracas, thank you so much.

So, as we watch these developments unfold from North Korea to Venezuela, the top post at the Homeland Security Department --


WHITFIELD: -- is leaving for the west wing. Up next, who will succeed General John Kelly as he takes on his new role as White House Chief of Staff?




WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. As the president starts his new week, the White House tries to reset and refocus. Tomorrow --


WHITFIELD: -- retired General John Kelly takes over as the new White House Chief of Staff. That move is raising speculation about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions could switch roles and move into Kelly's old job as Homeland Security Secretary. Well, Sessions, of course, has been publicly shamed by President Trump over Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigations.

Earlier today, the president's counselor, Kellyanne Conway, responded to whether another shake-up might be in the works.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Again, that's a personal question that only the president can answer. I will tell you that the president has expressed frustration about the recusal. So much has flowed from that recusal and so much of President Trump's agenda flows from the department of justice. Many of the primary issues and the programs he won successfully on go through the department of the justice. And look at what's happened with this ridiculous Russian collusion delusion.


WHITFIELD: Let's bring in, CNN'S Boris Sanchez. So, Boris sets up a scene for us, what's ahead in this new week?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. So this speculation about Jeff Sessions being installed as the head of the Department of Homeland Security at this point is purely speculation. It comes from some reporting from Politico in which some of their sources were talking about this being a possibility, though it is, at this point, just a wild theory. CNN has no indication that the president is considering this or that Jeff Sessions would even accept the job.

I should tell you though, because we've seen so many unprecedented moves from the White House before, you've already see Republican lawmakers responding to this being a possibility. There were some tweets from Lindsey Graham yesterday saying that this was a bad idea. We also heard from Susan Collins, she was asked this on "Meet the Press" earlier today. Listen to what she said.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The attorney general made absolutely the right decision to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.

CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: So you would not support any attempt to move Jeff Sessions to DHS?

COLLINS: It's up to Jeff Sessions and the president, but if he's being moved because of his correct decision to recuse himself, I think that's a mistake.


SANCHEZ: Well, Fred, I have to tell you, this is a wild theory, but it is a possibility because Jeff Sessions has already been confirmed by the senate. The president could theoretically, at least, install him as the head of DHS for up to 210 days while he then goes out and look for a different person to nominate as attorney general, and then the confirmation process continues.

You can imagine it might be difficult getting someone else confirmed with so much support, especially from Republican lawmakers for Jeff Sessions, Fred?

WHITFIELD: Yes. We're going to talk about that right now about some of the other lawmakers who say it's going to be a tough battle if that is, indeed, the case. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

So whether Jeff Sessions might slide into a new role is already prompting strong reaction in Washington, more on what Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted. He said this, "A.G. Jeff Sessions has a good ring to it, highly qualified, committed to the rule of law, tough on crime and fiercely independent. DHS Secretary Jeff Sessions doesn't sound right, doesn't feel right. Bad idea."

That from Lindsey Graham. So let's discuss all of this with Jeffrey Lord, CNN political commentator and Dana Milbank, political columnist for the "Washington Post". Good to see both of you.

All right. So, Jeff, for you first. At the time when the White House is trying to reset, why would moving Sessions to Homeland Security secretary be a good idea?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know that it would, frankly. I think I understand and I agree with the president on the recusal situation. But other than that, and that's kind of like saying, other than that this is Lincoln (INAUDIBLE) the play, I supposed, from the president's standpoint.

Other than that, I think he's doing a very good job as attorney general, it's sort of a natural fit. I believe he was attorney general of Alabama and he was also a U.S. Attorney. So, I think this is the role that's great for him.

All right. So Dana, by the way, welcome back. It's been a while since you've been in our program.


WHITFIELD: So, let's not make it so long.

MILBANK: All right.

WHITFIELD: So, right now, all of this we're talking about is really speculation. Senator Grassley said there would be no time for confirming a new A.G. At least, one other lawmaker said, no way to a recess appointment. So, what would be the likely consensus from fellow Republicans if Trump does try to oust the attorney general?

MILBANK: Well, if you look in the abstract, the notion of Jeff Sessions going over to Homeland Security, it's not a crazy idea, because so much of Jeff Sessions is about the border and that's so much of what that job is.

But of course, we're not looking at this in the abstract and everybody would interpret that as a way for the president to get a new attorney general in there who could at least, in theory, fire Bob Mueller and put the Russia investigation --


-- to an end. And that's where you're seeing Lindsey Graham saying there will be hell to pay. You're hearing Chuck Grassley saying, I'm sorry, just can't fit you in the calendar for the rest of this year.

At each stage along the line, many of us have speculated, well, this will be too much for Republicans in congress to take. In each stage, they seem to have gone along with it. There are lots of rumblings that this would be different. This is where they draw a line and say that's not acceptable, Mr. President.

WHITFIELD: And so, Jeffrey, when it comes to this White House shake- up, the "Wall Street Journal" writes this saying --

TEXT: "This shuffling of his staff furniture won't matter unless Mr. Trump accepts what the White House problem is not Mr. Priebus, it's him."

WHITFIELD: So, is it your view that John Kelly would be able to convey that if he's the one to help restore or bring some order to the west wing? LORD: Well, I think General Kelly is a good choice for this. I've

checked on this, Fred, and presidents: Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon all at some point in their term had an admiral or a general as White House Chief of Staff. And in every single case, they all did a great job. I suspect that the military aspect of it and the discipline is a good fit for any White House. And I imagine that's going to be true with the Trump White House as well.

The president clearly has a great deal of respect for General Kelly. He is in the weight of the world here appear, in terms of age and experience, and his military experience, which is something that I think the president appreciates. So I think it was a pretty good decision. And I would add --

WHITFIELD: Yes, go ahead.

LORD: I would add one thing. I was in the White House when President Reagan fired Don Reagan as his Chief of Staff during Iran-Contra, that was a mess -- an unholy mess. Mr. Reagan heard about this through CNN, if you can believe it, that he was being fired. He was so angry, he dictated a one-sentence letter of resignation, had it hand- delivered to the president. The president called him on the phone and Mr. Reagan said I'm sorry. It's too late. Walked out, never to return again, very better. This is a whole lot better than that.

WHITFIELD: Gosh. Well, OK, if you say so. So as it pertains to these generals, Dana, the president has said when he was the candidate, he loves the generals, respects the generals. However, generals, you know, many military leadership was blindsided, you know, by the transgender proposal that the president tweeted out.

So, is there a real problem here that there might be a verbal message that he respects the generals but is there an overt message that he might not?

MILBANK: Well, I think that's exactly right. It's not just respecting the generals, will anybody be able to have that authority. If anybody's going to have it, it would be somebody like Kelly. But what we've seen all along, Fred, it's not really a personnel problem in the White House. The main issue is that nobody seems to be able to rein in the boss, that they may all think they have something under control and then the president of the United States is up tweeting something that contradict or undercut them at 6:00 in the morning.

That is sort of the core illness here. So if you're just bringing in a new chief of staff, well, that's essentially a manicure. Even if he's well-qualified and an ideal temperamentally, the question is, can Donald Trump himself be tamed? And he shown no ability to do that so far.

WHITFIELD: And so Jeffrey, do you see this job being chief of staff as one to rein in the president, particularly at this juncture in the way in which John Kelly is being brought in?

LORD: No. It's to let the president be himself whomever that president may be. The very first column I wrote on Donald Trump as a possible candidate, thinking that he could succeed, was in 2013 and I went back and looked at it the other day and I said in there that, in the Reagan era, we had a saying in the staff, let Reagan be Reagan and that Donald Trump's best success lie in let Trump be Trump. I think that will pull through.

WHITFIELD: I mean, aren't we seeing Trump? Has anyone held him back, in other words?

LORD: I think there was a lot of in-fighting out of range here that we weren't seeing from people who don't like that and they were undercutting him. So, the thing to do is to understand how the president works and get his best foot forward letting him be himself. The minute you try and have a president become not himself is the moment the world sees that person as a phony and that's not a good thing.

WHITFIELD: All right. Go, Dana. Do you want to (INAUDIBLE)? I guess, the real Trump 2.0 is coming because we haven't seen him in other words.

MILBANK: I think we've seen a whole lot of the real Donald Trump and I would urge General Kelly to please stop letting Trump be Trump.

WHITFIELD: All right, we shall see. Day one for John Kelly tomorrow. Jeffrey Lord, dana Milbank, good to see you guys.

MILBANK: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, we will be right back.




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Breaking news out of Russia, Russian state media says President Putin is ordering the U.S. to cut its staff in the diplomatic mission in Russia by 755 people. This in response to a U.S. sanctions bill that President Trump is expected to sign.

Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, in Moscow. So, Matthew, this 755 is that a significant makeup of U.S. diplomats, or, you know, diplomatic corps in Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think no matter how you cut it it's obviously a very significant reduction in the amount of people employed by the United States in their various diplomatic missions in Russia.

They've got an embassy in Moscow, the Russian capital, and three continents around the country as well where there is a mixture of U.S. citizens employed and on diplomatic status, and, of course, Russian nationals as well. Employees to carry out certain functions at that the embassy undertakes.

[14:35:07] So, what's not clear at the moment, and this is a story that's been floating around on state media at least since yesterday, what's not clear is what the exact makeup of those cuts will involve.

The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has come out and confirmed what state media was already reporting 24 hours ago. In fact, if anything, he's upped the number of people that the diplomatic missions have to be reduced by saying that it's now 755 people.

Again, we don't know exactly what proportion of U.S. citizens will be, but whichever way you cut it, this is a significant rebuke to the United States and it's a significant part of Russia's retaliation for this U.S. sanctions bill passing so overwhelmingly in the U.S. Congress.

And there's also been some other measures taken as well. Diplomatic compound outside of Moscow has been seized by the Russians. Sort of the embassy dacha, and a storage facility in the Russian capital that's been confiscated by the Russian government as well.

And all this for the Russians, a long overdue response is what the Russians call it. To the expulsion's the end of the presidency of Barack Obama, of 35 Russians and the seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York.

And so, what the Russians are saying is that they waited a long time, since December of last year, for the situation to get better. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said he hoped it would get better, but it didn't and it won't anytime soon and that's what he announced these measures -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you so much for that update.

Let's talk more about this with Bill Browder, a financier who spent years working in Russia. He is now waging an anti-corruption campaign against the Russian president. He also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Good to see you.

So, what's your reaction to what now appears to be retaliation. Retaliation, perhaps, for the U.S. sanctions bill that the president of the United States has yet to sign, as well as the failure of the U.S. to return the compounds in the U.S., Maryland and New York that Russia said it wanted for its in-country diplomats?

BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: I view this as textbook Putin. His big thing is to look like a strong man in his country. The number of diplomats who have been expelled, 755, is 20 times the number of diplomats that the U.S. expelled from Washington, D.C. as a result of election hacking.

This is Putin's way of really sort of showing up America, showing his own people that he won't be pushed around, and it's quite interesting that it took him this long to do it, because as you mentioned, he didn't do anything after the diplomats were expelled back in December. He was hoping that Trump would lift sanctions, and what he's discovered is that Trump isn't the only person who controls U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. Congress does as well.

WHITFIELD: And so you believe largely it's in response to Congress pushing for this bill. It wasn't the president's initiative, even though he has yet to sign it. His office says that he will, but it was Congress that said we want to propose this. There needs to be more sanctions and we also want to be able to override the president if he denies that, and Putin saw that at, this is changing the game.

BROWDER: Yes. So, I was just in Washington last week testifying at the Senate Judiciary Committee and I met a number of senators and also representatives, and there is absolute unanimity in Congress as far as Russia sanctions are concerned.

In the Senate side, there were 98 senators for sanctions, two against. In the House of Representatives, it was even more extreme. There's only three people in the House of Representatives that voted against the sanctions bill.

And basically, the legislative branch of government has as much power as the executive branch, and so whatever sweet things that Donald Trump is mumbling in Putin's ear, it doesn't affect policy. This is the result of effectively Putin going to war with the U.S. Congress.

WHITFIELD: There have been some European allies who have said that their concern is this plan of -- this proposal before the president's desk, could potentially backfire. That it might make it more difficult for European countries as it pertains to trade. Are those legitimate concerns?

BROWDER: Well, what you have is certain European business people arguing to their governments that they're going to -- they're not going to make as much money with this sanctions policy in place, and Europe has much more to fear from Russia than the United States does.

I mean, Europe is much closer to Russia and Putin only understands a boot on the throat. This is a boot on his throat. So, anyone who's arguing in Europe this is going to backfire is effectively arguing that certain businessmen are not going to make as much money.

[14:40:07] WHITFIELD: This morning Russia's deputy foreign minister tells ABC that the order to cease U.S. property in Moscow and expel 755 or, you know, regardless what the number is, it could be really step number one in what's to come. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were the one who notified the Americans that the Russians would be expelling American diplomats and technicians closing down some facilities. So, is this what President Putin was talking about in terms of retaliation?

SERGEI RYABKOV, DEPUTY RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Yes, it is, and I think this retaliation is long, long overdue. After the Senate, the day before yesterday voted, or rather on the 27th of July, voted so overwhelmingly on a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation, it was the last drop. If the U.S. side decides to move further, towards further deterioration, we will answer --


WHITFIELD: So the president had said particularly after the G-20 that the -- there was going to be a concerted effort made to increase or improve the relationships between the U.S. and Russia. Is that impossible at this juncture?

BROWDER: Well, the main reason why -- yes, it is impossible. The main reason why is that Russia interfered with the -- the Democratic process of the election last year.

WHITFIELD: But the president is still not convinced of that.

BROWDER: Well, he may not be convinced of it, but everybody else in the countries is convinced of it and as I said, the legislative branch has as much power as the executive branch in many situations. This is one situation where Congress effectively tied the president's hands and override him in terms of whatever sentiment he has about Putin and about Russia.

WHITFIELD: So, is this now a new reality check for the president?

BROWDER: Well, he now can no longer lift sanctions, which is a big part of what Vladimir Putin is upset about. It doesn't mean that he can't offer Putin other gifts. One of Putin's big objectives is to weaken NATO. Trump has made various noises about that during his campaign. That's the next big battleground to see where that plays itself out in the future.

WHITFIELD: Bill Browder, thank you so much. Appreciate it and we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This morning, President Trump urged senators to keep fighting for an Obamacare repeal. He tweeted, "Don't give up Republican senators. The world is watching. Repeal and replace and go to 51 votes. Get across state lines and more," end quote.

This as the president has made it clear that he is perfectly fine with letting Obamacare implode. But that's not quite what we heard from his health and human services secretary just hours ago. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he going to let it implode or as he says do the right thing for the American people?

TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I think what the president said is that it's not the right thing to do because it hurts people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This week he said he was going to let it implode. Is that what he's going to do?

PRICE: No. I think, again, that that punctuates the concern that he has about getting this moved in the right direction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he says, let Obamacare implode, then deal. What does that mean?

PRICE: Well, again, I think what that does is punctuate the seriousness with which he understands the American people are having to deal with the current situation.


WHITFIELD: All right, Tom Price not answering that question, deferring to other language. CNN's White House correspondent, Athena Jones, joining me now with more on this. Athena, so united front or is there a little -- you know, redirecting on the whole issue of health care?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, it's a little unclear. Because you heard Martha Radditz repeatedly trying to get the HHS Secretary Tom Price to respond to that question and the reason it's such an important question is because we have repeatedly heard President Trump talk about how he said all along, Obamacare should be allowed to implode.

That would force Democrats to the table to forge a deal. That is the kind of language, though, that has concerned a whole lot of people. The budget director, Mick Mulvaney, was also asked about this issue and about a tweet the president put out yesterday, I'm not sure if you have that tweet to put up on the screen.

This is all still related to health care. The president said yesterday, "If a new health care bill is not approved quickly, bailouts or insurance companies or bailouts for members of Congress will end very soon."

Well, that statement, which sounds a lot like a threat, a threat in part to end the cost-sharing subsidies that help reduce deductibles and co-pays for some 7 million lower income people in America.

Well, the budget director was asked about that tweet, asked what the president meant by it, and here's what he had to say about that. Take a listen.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Yes. Actually, I talked to the president at length about that exact issue yesterday, and I think his attitude is this. His attitude is pretty simple. Keep in mind, he does have a way of channeling a large number of the American public and what he's saying is, look, if Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, then why shouldn't it hurt insurance companies and more importantly perhaps for this discussion members of Congress?


JONES: And what's so curious about what we just heard from Mick Mulvaney, this idea that if Obamacare is hurting people and it is, why shouldn't it also hurt insurance companies?

I think a lot of people will say, well, isn't the goal to not do any of that? Isn't the goal to make sure that there is a functioning system? We've already heard criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins said that ending these cost- sharing subsidies, which insurance companies rely on would not just hurt insurance companies, but it would be detrimental to some of the most vulnerable citizens if those payments were cut off.

[14:50:10] Bernie sanders echoing that sentiment as well, and arguing that the president should not be trying to sabotage health care. One more thing I want to mention, Fred. You mentioned at the top, the president's tweet about how the Republicans should go to 51 votes. That was the threshold that they weren't able to meet this past week in repealing health care, Obamacare -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that's a big and significant issue. Talking about, back to the vulnerable people, 7 million very vulnerable of the other millions who are counting on the care.

So, Athena, let me also ask you about the latest information about Russia. President Putin now saying 755 U.S. diplomats will have to leave. This in retaliation to the sanctions proposal that the president of the United States has yet to sign, but is there any response from the White House thus far on this latest retaliatory move from Russia?

JONES: Fred, no response so far. Also, I have been checking, of course, the president's Twitter feed, which I did just a moment ago, and we haven't seen a response there either. But I would imagine we'll get one at some point.

And I should mention the president did wake up early this morning once again to send out that tweet in the 7:00 a.m. hour and then went to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, and, Fred, that makes the 47th day that he has spent time at a property that bears his name.

He has visited one of his golf properties 43 times as president, and we just learned that they have departed that golf club, and so perhaps he'll come back here, and we may here more response to that news out of Russia.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll look to that. Athena Jones, thank you so much from the White House. Appreciate it. We'll have much more from the NEWSROOM after this.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. So, Jonathan Winters was a pioneer in the field of standup comedy, but while he was making us laugh, he was also dealing with his own personal demons. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was 12 or 13, one of my best friends called me up once. Like a drug dealer at 12. Come over. What you got? You got to hear this!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The routines are ridiculously brilliant. I'm going, whose brain can do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be as genius as Jonathan Winters, you have to think differently than normal people. He's working within his mind at a very high level a very fast level. By thinking that way and being that untethered to the rest of us, you can lose your mind more easily.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jonathan was profoundly troubled guy with drinking issues, depression issues that were clinical. That were deep.


WHITFIELD: All right, be sure to watch CNN's "History of Comedy" tonight at 10:00. We'll be right back.