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Russia Taking Action Against The U.S.; Tensions Are Mounting Between The U.S. And North Korea. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired July 30, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Also early this morning, the U.S. military says it successfully tested a missile designed to intercept that 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: The President wants to go a different direction. Wants a little more discipline, a little more structure in there. You know that he enjoys working with generals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All Right, more on that in a moment.
But first, Russia is taking action against the U.S. in the face of looming sanctions. And President Vladimir Putin says while he was hoping relations with the U.S. would change for the better, it clearly is not going to happen any time soon.
Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance in Moscow.
So Matthew, more about the 755 mostly Americans who will be leaving?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, made this announcement on state television here this evening. Basically saying that the U.S. diplomatic missions across Russia. Remember they have an embassy in Moscow and three other consulates in other parts of the country.
The staff numbers there will have to be reduced by 755 people which is obviously an enormous number and said well over sort of half of what we believe are employed by these various U.S. diplomatic missions across Russia. So a very significant step.
And it underlines just how angry and disappointed the Kremlin is with the fact that the U.S. sanctions bill looks like it is going through, passed convincingly by Congress. President Trump has indicated that he will sign it. And of course, President Trump is the man that the Kremlin believed was going to be able to turn around the relationship between Russia and the United States. But he is completely been unable to do that.
And this marks the point at which Russia is saying, OK, enough is enough. Vladimir Putin saying, we waited a long time for things to change for the better. We hoped the situation would change. But judging by the situation that will not be soon.
Take a listen to what Vladimir Putin said on national television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I thought it was time for us to show that we will not leave this without an answer. As for other possible measures or whether it is a lot or not, this is quite sensible from the point of view of the work of the diplomatic department because 1,000 or so employees, diplomats and technical workers have worked and still work in Russia, 755 will have to stop their activities in the Russian federation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: All right, well, what's not clear at the moment, Fredricka, is how many of those 755 people that work in those U.S. diplomatic missions are actually U.S. citizens. Obviously, there are lots of - there is a mixture in all of those facilities in the embassy and the consulate of local staff and Russian diplomats. And it's not clear yet how many Russian -- U.S. diplomats are going to be ejected and departed because of this ruling.
WHITFIELD: And September 1 is the date that we understand, correct?
CHANCE: Yes. September 1st. So it is just over a month for them to get prepared.
Vladimir Putin said that he feels very sad that the situation has got to this point because he believes he says that the United States and Russia should be working together. I mean, he indicated in this television interview, the energy sector, the space industry and Syria, the areas where United States and Russia have worked together effectively, for the moment, he expects that cooperation between the two countries to continue.
WHITFIELD: All right. Matthew Chance, thank you so much from Moscow.
So earlier today, I spoke with Bill Browder on Putin's latest move. He is a financier who spent years working in Russia and is now waging an anti-corruption campaign against the Russian President. He also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Listen.
BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Well, I view this as sort of 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 has 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 said that he will. But it was Congress that said we want to propose this. That there need to be more sanctions. And we also want to be able to override the President if he denies that. And Putin saw that as this is changing the game.
[16:05:03] 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 among -- 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. And 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 are certain European business people arguing to their governments that they are going to - they are 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. And this is a boot on his throat. And so, anyone who is arguing in Europe this is going to backfire is effectively - just arguing that certain businessmen are not going to make as much money.
WHITFIELD: And this morning, Russia's deputy foreign minister tells ABC that the order to seize U.S. property in Moscow and expel the 755 or you know, regardless of what the number is, it could be really step number one in what's to come. Take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are the one who notified the Americans that the Russians would be expelling American diplomats and technicians, closing down facilities. So is this what President Putin was talking about in terms of retaliation?
SERGEY RYABKOV, DEPUTY RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Yes, it is. And I think this retaliation is 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 toward 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 democratic process of the election last year.
WHITFIELD: The President is still not convinced of that.
BROWDER: Well, he may not be convinced of it, but everybody else in the country is convinced of it. And as I said the legislative branch has as much power as the executive branch in many situations. And this is one situation where Congress has effectively tied the President's hands and overwrote him in terms of whatever sentiment he has about Putin and about Russia.
WHITFIELD: All right. Lots more to talk about still. Let's bring in Kiron Skinner. She is a research fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford and served on President Trump's national security council transition team. Good to see you, Karen.
KIRON SKINNER, RESEARCH FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTE STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Thank you for having me.
WHITFIELD: So do you believe the deputy foreign minister there when he says this really could be the start of more to come? What potentially is in the arsenal of Russia?
SKINNER: I'm not exactly sure what the Russians plan to do. This retaliation is exactly that. It is a punitive measure against the United States because the U.S. Congress has taken a substantive not a punitive but a substantive act of imposing sanctions on Russia and other countries that are working against the national interest of Americans.
So I think there's a really -- when you look at it, there's a mismatch in behavior. I think what Congress did, whether the President agrees or others agree. It asserted its article one authority under the constitution. It is the first branch of government. It acted as so. And I think the President will work well with Congress on this and other related issues, because the Congress has made its preference clear.
WHITFIELD: So how potentially might this hurt U.S. interests or work that 750 personnel, largely working with U.S. diplomatic efforts would be asked to leave or forced to leave by September 1.
SKINNER: I don't think it's a good move at all because not only does the U.S. have a robust embassy in Moscow. It has three consulates throughout Russia as well. With Americans working very hard from the foreign service and others on behalf of U.S. interest in the region and in the country. So I do think that it will hurt the ability of those left to get their work done, but we have an incredibly disciplined and committed foreign service and American service corps. So I do believe our work will continue.
But I think it complicates U.S. Russia relations in some very specific ways. President Trump, I think is coming to grips with the facts that -- the fact that we are in the 21st century. And foreign policy is incredibly difficult in this new century, in ways that we aren't really prepared for. Both President George W. Bush and President Obama grappled with the difficulties of Russia and China and other great powers. And I think he realizes that he needs Russia, and he needs China to resolve Syria and Ukraine and other crisis, but it's not easy dealing with great powers who have divergent interests.
[16:11:19] WHITFIELD: Is this Putin sending salvo before as we understand, the President, you know, has actually signed that proposal. Is this Putin saying before you sign that, you know, give it another thought because we are about to expel 755 of your people that you need.
SKINNER: If it is, I hope that the U.S. administration would not respond the way that Vladimir Putin would want the U.S. to respond because in fact, I think Congress has spoken.
WHITFIELD: So you think they will still sign in.
SKINNER: I do. I do. And I don't have, Fredricka, I don't have inside knowledge on this point. But to me, I think the President should sign and will sign because of what Congress has done is actually consistent with much of what he said in the campaign and in the early months of his administration. He does wants a clear coherent foreign policy. The personnel changes have made it somewhat difficult. But I don't think this is inconsistent with where he has sought to go dealing with Russia.
WHITFIELD: Russia still wants access to its compounds in New York and Maryland. That access removed during the Obama administration. Do you think the President has made up his mind definitively that he would not return that?
SKINNER: I don't know. And I would not want to speculate on air without knowledge of those deliberations. And I'm not part of that.
WHITFIELD: All right, Kiron Skinner, thanks so much. Good to see you again.
SKINNER: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. There was a show of military force by Russia today. The nation bringing back its annual Navy parade to display hundreds of ships and aircraft. Russian president Vladimir Putin says it's not a show of force, but instead, this country is reviving a century's old tradition. Lots of symbolism today.
All right. Straight ahead, the U.S. says it's conducted a successful missile defense test as a threat of North Korea intensifies, details on that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm convinced that North Korea has never moved at the speed that this leader has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[16:17:26] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Tensions are mounting between the U.S. and North Korea after the rogue nation's latest ballistic missile test. And the threat of firm action against the U.S. if it pursues sanctions. This as the U.S. conducts what it called a successful test of its own anti-missile defense. This is video from that test, the THAAD system as it is called intercepted a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. also sent two bombers to fly over the Korean peninsula in a show of military force. And moments ago, vice President Mike Pence weighed in, affirming all options are on the table for dealing with North Korea.
CNN international correspondent Alexander Field is monitoring the tense situation from Seoul, South Korea- Alex.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fredricka. Look. To some extent we have been here before but also the stakes keep getting higher as North Korea becomes more and more intent on proving its military might to the rest of the world. And their most recent ICBM test launch does goes some way toward achieving that.
It was just three weeks ago, of course, where they test launch an ICBM that experts agreed was able to reach Alaska. This time around, though, they say that there is further range on that missile that they tested. That this is a missile that could be capable of reaching well into the mainland of the United States, Los Angeles, by some accounts even as far as Denver or Chicago by other accounts.
So while the North Koreans are celebrating this victory, it is provoking a response from South Korea. And the U.S., they are trying to flex their military mite in kind during a series of military drills firing off their own missiles, deploying that missile defense system in a test run as well. And also flying B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula.
These are all actions similar to steps of U.S. as seen before. And every time North Korea sees these moves as a provocation. They have responded by saying they will take firm action if the U.S. proceeds with sanctions against North Korea. But clearly, sanctions have been at the corps of the Trump administration policy towards dealing with North Korea. That and they are looking at China to enforce those sanctions. That's really been what we heard from top administration officials including President Trump himself, since he took office, since he has countered this mounting prep from North Korea. Now, he seems to try to be applying more pressure to China with recent tweets saying that China has done nothing for us. But North Korea just talk. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley is backing that up saying that the U.S. is done talking about North Korea and China is aware that they must act.
Beijing did responds to the launch of that ICBM, the test launch of that ICBM, of course condemning the launch itself but calling for all sides to work to lower the tension that has been mounting on peninsula. It was of course officials in Beijing who proposed a few months back, a freeze, by which North Koreans would agree to freeze their nuclear and missile program in exchange. They said they wanted to see the U.S. and South Korea stop conducting the kind of military drills that show provoked the range of Pyongyang. That is an option that has been discounted by trump administration officials who are clearly looking squarely at China. And yet again saying that it is China that has the leverage in the region and that it is China that must act to reign in the regime here -- Fred.
[16:20:37] WHITFIELD: All right. Alexandra Field, thank you so much.
We are going to talk more about all of this. So what are the options that the U.S. has in dealing with an increasingly aggressive North Korea?
And joining me right now is Jim Walsh, an international security analyst.
Good to see you, Jim. It has been a longtime. Glad you are back.
JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So Congress, you know, is about to send the President that sanctions bill, that not only impacts Russia, but North Korea as well. And we have heard from the White House that he would sign it. We don't know what the response is today. But the North Koreans are now threatening firm action, if the U.S. goes ahead with those sanctions. So what do they mean firm action?
WALSH: You know, I don't think it means anything. Sometimes when the North Koreans talk, they mean what they say. When they say they are going to test, they are going to test. In other times it's bravado. And I would say that's true the U.S. side too. The U.S. says if you test one more time, you know, this is terrible, we are going to do terrible things to you. And then they test and nothing much happens. So on that, both sides tend to make threats that they don't back up.
But I would, you know, step back from this and listen to what Alexandra said in that last report. You know, this is like the 14th test, the 14th. They are - they are not just testing more, they are testing at a faster pace. So if you think sanctions are going to solve this, you are deluding yourself.
There's a giant disconnect between their ability to quickly advance their capabilities versus our ability to enforce sanctions that would even matter. They are clearly winning that race. So doing more of the same isn't going to change the fundamental problem.
WHITFIELD: Right. And then there has been progress in advancements. That's exactly what Senator Diane Feinstein was talking about today when asked about North Korea's missile.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm convinced that North Korea has never moved at the speed that this leader has to develop an ICBM to put solid fuel, to have an interesting launch device and to have a trajectory which as of the latest analysis would enable it to go about 6,000 miles and maybe even hit as far east as Chicago. We can't have that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And if that is indeed the case on reaching as far east as Chicago, a, would you believe that, and what would be your biggest concerns if that is it the case?
WALSH: Well, I would separate out a couple things. First of all, let's put this in context. You know the 30,000 Americans living in South Carolina are armed forces personnel living there, and whatever tens of thousands more in Japan, they have been living over a nuclear shadow for years now. So this is nothing new for them. Our allies and our own fighting forces have been under threat of a nuclear attack for a while. So yes, it might be new to us on the homeland. But this has been a situation in play.
I think that it points to the need to do something different. And the only way you are going to get them to stop making progress, is if they stop testing. And the only way you are going to stop or freeze testing is if you sit down and talk to them. So I think we are going to probably need to change tactics here and do more of that because if we don't stop them, that capability will continue. Whereas if we were to get a freeze and different sides have made different noises about getting a freeze, swapping this for that. If we got a freeze, at least it would not progress any further than it is now. And I think everyone would welcome that.
WHITFIELD: So the President, President Trump, you know, launched his twitter rant saying, you know, China is not doing enough to solve the North Korea problem. And then just moments ago, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley sent out a statement via tweet, also saying, there's no point in having an emergency session. If it produces nothing of consequence, China must decide whether it is finally willing to take this vital step. The time for talk is over. The danger, the North Korean regime poses to peace is now clear to all.
I mean, you heard of course, from Alexandra's piece that Beijing did respond and said that while it's condemning what has happened, it's also saying that all sides need to work together. So what in all of that would be different? I know you said something different would have to happen?
WALSH: Yes, well, I don't --
WHITFIELD: Does it sound like anyone's got a different plan?
WALSH: No, because I think she pretty much said that the last 13 times they had a missile test. And the person who proceed her in that job under the Obama administration said the same thing, all those many tests last year. So I don't see the statements really meaning anything.
I think really the most interesting thing to come out of this and is a little worrying as if the ICBM is not warning it up. The other thing here, less reported, is that because of these tests, the U.S. has agreed to allow South Korea to build bigger missiles. There are always restraints on what South Koreans could have in terms of missile range and the pay loaded those missiles. And what's happened with provocation over time is with a major provocation that South Koreans say hey, we should be able to do x, y and z. And then under that sort of moment of crisis, the U.S. says, OK, you can do that.
So as a result, South Korean forces can now reach deeper into South Korea and deliver heavier destructive payloads. So that is a regional arm's race that is one consequence of all these shenanigans.
[16:25:58] WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling, though, shenanigans, is it you feeling though that North Korea, you know, is really just trying to flex muscles? Just trying to, you know, tell the world, pay attention to us? But it really has no intention of preemptively, you know, launching a missile to strike the U.S. mainland?
WALSH: Fredricka - yes. And I think you put your finger on absolutely the correct point here. There's no way North Korea initiates a war against us. They would lose. If there's one thing the family wants to do is hold on to power, not commit suicide. So they are not going to start a war. But there is still danger here. If they feel like we are coming after them, they feel like we can fire first. There can be miscalculations. There can be misperceptions. One of these leaders could go and decide to do something really dumb.
So yes, a deliberate war I think is a very low probability. But I think there's still danger here. And that's why I think we should have more negotiation. Hold your friends close and your enemies closer so that people don't make damn mistakes.
WHITFIELD: All right, Jim Walsh, this was the vice president Mike Pence while he is in Estonia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The continued provocations by the rouge regime in North Korea are unacceptable. And the United States of America is going to continue to Marshall the support of nations across the region and across the world to further isolate North Korea economically and dramatically. The era of strategic patience is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Is that the diplomacy you are talking about?
WALSH: He said the era of strategic patience is over. That was the name for President Obama's policy. And I laughed there because essentially we are in the same situation, right. I mean, they keep testing and we keep saying the same thing.
And here is my prediction, Fred. They are going to test again. They are probably going to test within a month. And they hadn't any other nuclear test. I'm happy about that. But that is something they can also do in the future. But they are certainly going to test another missile and I -- if that's not strategic patience, I don't know what is.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jim Walsh, always good talking to you. Thanks so much.
WALSH: Good to see you and thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, the head of homeland security takes over as White House chief of staff tomorrow. Will John Kelly be able to help President Trump hit the reset button? And who will take Kelly's place at homeland security?
We are on that next.
[16:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: President Trump gears up for a new weekend and new chief of staff. Less than 24 hours from now, Homeland Security secretary and retired general John Kelly takes the reins and replaces Reince Priebus as the president's right hand man, 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. Sessions of course has been publicly shamed by President Trump over Sessions decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Let's bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez in Washington. So Boris, set the scene for us as the president gears up for this new week?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Fred, all eyes are on Jeff Sessions and where he may turn up next if he is indeed fired by the president or if he resigns. That speculation that you mentioned about him going over to the department of Homeland Security came about as a "Politico" piece that referred to some sources speaking to people at DHS and saw that his name came up in conversation as a potential replacement for General Kelly who is now taking over as chief of staff of the White House.
We do have to state, this is purely speculation at this point. CNN has no indication that the president is considering this move or that Sessions would even accept the job. But because this White House has made some unprecedented moves before, there are lawmakers who are taking this very seriously including Lindsey Graham who tweeted about this yesterday saying it would be a bad idea.
And Senator Susan Collins of Maine who said that she wouldn't be in favor of this move if it were because Jeff Sessions recused himself fro the Russia investigation. But of course Fred, that's the main problem between the president and the attorney general. Here's Kellyanne Conway expanding on that earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDNT TRUMP: That's a personnel 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 Justice. And look at what's happened with the ridiculous Russian collusion delusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: And though it is a wild theory, Fred, it is possible because Jeff Sessions has already been confirmed by congress to serve as the head of the DOJ. The president could install him as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for up
[16:35:00] to 210 days while he then goes on to nominate a new attorney general. But as you heard from Republican lawmakers, that candidate would likely have a hard time getting confirmed to replace Jeff Sessions, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. Boris Sanchez in Washington.
All right, after the GOP health care bill takes a big defeat, what does this mean for the future of Obamacare and the millions of Americans who are on it? We'll discuss, next.
WHITFIELD: All right, in the three days since senators failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, the president has tweeted criticism against his own party. He singled out specific lawmakers in fact and even issued veiled threats of repercussions if a new bill is not passed soon. But today a different approach, tweeting, don't give up Republican senators. The world is watching. Repeal and replace, and go to 51 votes. Nuke option.
[16:40:00] Get across state lines and more. The president has also directed lawmakers to let Obamacare implode. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was pressed about that today. His answer --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST: Is he going to let it implode or, as he says, do the right thing for the American people?
TOM PRICE, SECRETRAY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: I think what the president said is that it's not the right thing to do because it hurts people.
RADDATZ: 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 fact that punctuates the concern that he has about getting this moved in the right direction.
RADDATZ: But he says let Obamacare implode then deal. What does that mean?
PRICE: 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.
RADDATZ: Is what the president is proposing letting the existing system fail, putting the needs of patients first? I understand your views on Obamacare.
PRICE: Martha, the current system is imploding. The president has stated it. I understand it, the American people understand it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now, Tami Luhby, a senior writer for CNN Money. Tami, good to see you. So yesterday the president tweeted this, if a new health care billing is not approved quickly bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of Congress will end very soon. So, these bailouts for insurance companies are the cost sharing payments, is it up to the president solely to withhold or release those payments?
TAMI LUHBY, CNN MONEY SENIOR WRITER: Right now it's been a fight between Congress, specifically the House of Representatives and the Obama administration for several years now. But right now it's up to the Trump administration to keep paying them. He's been paying them monthly around the 20th, 21st of the month and the insurers wait every month to see if the payments are going to be made.
So, the July payment was made. The August 1st is coming up and insurers are going want to want to know whether they're going to get that money. It is critical for them to get the money to continue on the exchanges.
WHITFIELD: And of course if people who have been counting on the ACA want to know, are they going to be able to count on it? What's it all predicated on?
LUHBY: So these cost sharing subsidies actually reduce the deductibles and co-pays for low income consumers. More than half of Obamacare enrollees are receiving so insurers want to get these payments. Without these payments, they are most likely going to drop out if not immediately for 2018.
We've already been seeing them raise their rates and several of them have withdrawn for 2018 because they just can't handle the uncertainty. They want to know whether they're going to get these payments. And they've said that repeatedly to the administration and to Congress.
WHITFIELD: So the president has the power to resuscitate or at least keep the ACA alive with these payments and if the president says implode, it could be implying just not sending the payments, so it dies.
LUHBY: What happens to Obamacare from here on in really is in the administration's hands. It's also in congress's hands, of course. But right with Congress somewhat stalled on their repeal and replace effort, it's in the administration's hands. We're talking the cost sharing subsidies being the top priority.
But insurers also want to know what's going to happen with the individual mandate. Are they going to enforce that? That's very important for them to get young and healthy people into the exchanges. And then also they want to know what's going to happen with the open enrollment. And open enrollment starts on November 1st. The Obama administration was very big in marketing and advertising, and you know, encouraging people to sign up, but the Trump administration has not been.
They've already cancelled two contracts to marketing firms to try to promote the enrollment and we know that last year, right after he took office, at the very end of open enrollment season in January, he cancelled a lot of advertising that would have encouraged a lot of people to sign up at the very end. And in the end, half a million fewer people signed up for Obamacare for 2017. So, what the administration does now is really going to determine the fate of Obamacare.
WHITFIELD: OK, but that there is into marketing, doesn't mean that people can't sign up, but if they don't know they can sign up, then, of course, you know, that's how the marketing is directly a component here.
LUHBY: Right, and you know what's going to happen is the people who do know about signing up -- because Obamacare still exists. It is the law of the land. And the people who know about it are the sicker people. We know that they're going so sign up. What the insurer's also want are the healthy people to sign up. So, those are the ones that need to be encouraged through social media, through advertising, through other types of outreach to actually get them to enroll. And that's going do make the exchanges healthier.
WHITFIELD: All right, Tami Luhby, thank you so much. Of course we can always check out your
[16:45:00] reporting on the health care matters at CNN.com. All right, still ahead, very dangerous protests and boycotts in Venezuela and a candidate now killed as polls get ready to close in Venezuela. A live report from Caracas in minutes.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A candidate in Venezuela's controversial election has been killed as (INAUDIBLE) is underway today. Authorities are investigating the death of a loyalist to Nicolas Maduro. Jose Felix Pineda was shot at his home -- inside his home last night.
Meanwhile, the opposition is defying the government's ban on protests and violent clashes are breaking out on the streets. This morning, Senator John McCain tweeted about the situation there saying this, "We stand with the people of Venezuela today who deserve democracy not sham elections and Maduro's repression."
[16:50:00] The polls close in less than two hours. CNN's Leyla Santiago joins me now with the very latest on this very volatile and dangerous situation, Leyla.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it has been a violent 24 hours, a violent week, a violent really several months since April, since this political unrest began. And just the last few minutes we heard President Maduro take to social media to thank all the voters who showed up at the polls today urging especially young folks to continue to come out.
They say they will keep the lines open as long as they have voters ready to take part in this election, this very controversial election. Now, to get a little further out, get away from those polling areas and you can actually see the opposition taking to the streets, making barricades out of old washing machines, rocks, wood, anything to come out and make a statement against the government.
We were in one area today where the National Guard came in shooting tear gas at the opposition to open that major highway and within I'd say half and hour, you saw more people take to the street. The crowd more than doubled as they said they do not want a new constitution, which could come out of this new assembly that they are electing today. They want a new government. And what's interesting is what they see as the crisis is the economy, the food and medical shortages, the way of livfe.
But when I was at the polling station and I asked somebody taking part in the elections today, they said the crisis is the opposition who they say are carrying out terrorist acts. So, while everyone will tell you they want peace, I'm not sure that everyone can agree on how that can be achieved. And quite frankly, it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days. If today is an indication of what's to come, peace will not be in the near future, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Leyla Santiago in Caracas. Thank you so much.
Also overseas, more than 22,000 people were evacuated from a music festival in Spain after a massive fire engulfed the stage there. The Barcelona Fire Department says everyone was evacuated safely and there were no reports of any injuries. Concert organizers say a technical malfunction sparked the fire. Right now, organizers are working with authorities investigating that incident. And we will be right back.
[16:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Now, for a look at this week's CNN Hero, a biologist in Malaysia who has dedicated his life to saving the sun bear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIEW TE WONG, CNN HERO: When I first started 20 years ago, no one has ever studied on this. The more I learn about them, the more I care. The more I care, the more I worry. I have to help them and this is why I want to be the voice for the sun bear to fight for the sun bear to ensure the survival of the sun bear.
(END VIDEO CALL)
WHITFIELD: All right, if you want to see more of those adorable sun bears go to CNNHeroes.com and while you're there, perhaps you can nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero.
All right, while comedians make us laugh, many of them may be suffering on the inside. On this week's episode of CNN's History of Comedy, Spark of Madness" comedians open up about their personal struggles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: I despise myself from pretty much close to getting out of the womb. I was always wrong. Let's start with that, when you're always wrong, you seek an audience to disprove that theory. I was just hell-bent on having to prove myself. I know I'm right. I can't be always wrong, you know. I was the victim.
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT, COMEDIAN: My father was a very strange man. He was kind of a performance artist that was fueled by beer.
MARIA BAMFORD, COMEDIAN: I was very shy and at home I was always quiet and didn't get to speak very often just because other people were always jibber jabbering a lot, you know. Some people wouldn't clam up, mom. When I did different voices or different noises, people say, that's weird or shut up. I feel like there's a fear of seeming crazy.
PATTON OSWALT, COMEDAIN: A lot of comedians are people that are very introverted, very shy, very sensitive to humiliation. A little narcissistic, a little damaged, and so the only way to combat it is to go to the one place where you are stripped bare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Wow. So you can watch "Spark of Madness" tonight right here on CNN.
All right, thanks so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. There's so much more straight ahead in the "Newsroom" with my colleague Ana Cabrera. It starts right now.
ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: You're in the "CNN Newsroom." I hope you've had a wonderful weekend. So glad you could join us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
In less than 24 hours, White House personnel will be under new leadership. General John Kelly will be sworn in as chief of staff tomorrow and his goal on day one is to put an end to the infighting, the leaks, the turmoil. Immediately he needs to because events are unfolding all around the world as we speak, that both he and the president will have to face head on tomorrow.
Take a look at the scene right now in Venezuela. An election that would rewrite the constitution in the president's favor there. Ends in just one hour.
[17:00:00] It has already turned (ph) late candidate was gunned down in his home last night hours before voting began and Venezuelan opposition leader was killed during protest today, all this in a country facing terrible food shortages and a collapsing economy.