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Venezuela Arrests Top 2 Opposition Leaders; GOP Senator: My Party's in Denial about Trump; Will Trump End Obamacare Breaks to Low Income; Trump Hasn't Signed Russian Sanctions Bill Yet; Graham: Trump Says War is Option with North Korea. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:15] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Detained at gunpoint in the dead of night as Venezuela erupts. Two leading figures in the country's opposition movement were forcibly removed from their homes and re-arrested because the Supreme Court says they were, quote, "planning to flee." The families say they were taken by armed, uniformed teams. The families also posted startling video as the raids played out. Both men are now back in prison.

These detentions come after a controversial weekend vote that gives Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sweeping new powers, and hours after, the U.S. imposed sanctions against the country.

Joining us Leyla Santiago with much more on this.

Leyla, what does it mean?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, for the opposition it means things could be changing in a way they don't want. The opposition leaders are really, really big names. When you take Leopoldo Lopez, for example, you got to the protests, he is often the face on the shirts they weary, the face on the posters they hold up, speaking out against the government.

The government is saying both opposition leaders were detained because they violated the conditions of their house arrest. You see in the video with Leopoldo Lopez overnight as they took him into a car that was marked with the acronym for the intelligence agency here in Venezuela.

His family saying that President Maduro is responsible for this and he is moving toward the road of dictatorship in doing this.

Let's go to the other video with Antonio Ledezma, very dramatic. You can hear a man saying, yelling for help as Ledezma resists when the officials take him out of the home. And neighbors yell out "dictatorship" and yell out "they are taking him," to alert the neighborhood. This is in the middle of the night. As you mentioned, days after a controversial election that could leave a new assembly to rewrite the constitution, to give President Maduro more power. You ask President Maduro and he calls the election a success.

BOLDUAN: I think we lost the connection with Leyla Santiago.

We were watching that dramatic video play out. What is next in Venezuela, you can only stay tuned. We will.

Leyla Santiago and our team on the ground for us.

Leyla, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, duped by a cyber prankster. Coming up, we are going to see how several White House officials, including the president's Homeland Security adviser, walked into a trap online. We'll have details on that, ahead.

Plus, why hasn't the president signed the Russia sanctions bill? It is supposedly on his desk after Congress passed it in a rare show of bipartisanship with huge bipartisan support. What is the holdup? What happens if he doesn't sign it after all this? That's coming up.


[11:37:44] BOLDUAN: "My party is in denial about Donald Trump," that's the headline of a piece by Republican Senator Jeff Flake. He's pointing the finger at himself and fellow Republicans. He writes that Republicans all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump. And he writes, "Maintaining an unnerving silence is the face of an erratic executive branch is an avocation and those in position of leadership bear particular responsibility."

CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining me with more on this.

Brianna, why is Jeff Flake taking a stand and how are folks reacting?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We are going to see how they are reacting as Senators come to the policy lunches. Kate, he's reacting to this because he's never been a fan of Donald Trump to begin with. It's pretty mutual, right? President Trump, the White House, threatened to primary Jeff Flake. He is vulnerable politically, a vulnerable Senate seat. In a way, he's making a calculation or maybe he doesn't have a choice, which is he didn't endorse Donald Trump before. He hasn't been a fan of him. He has been critical. This takes it to a new level. He's going to keep going out on that limb that he's been going out on.

It's not just Donald Trump that he's taking on here. He takes aim at Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. He accuses Republican leaders of putting party before country. There's a stunning thing where he talks about dealing with what has gone on in the spring of 2017. He said it required, quote, "a determined suspension of critical faculties" and he said also "tremendous powers of denial."

What's striking to me here, Kate, some of this reflects what you know Republicans, as you know, on the Hill feel privately, but haven't come out and said that. Many Republicans have a problem with the way Trump does things. They feel like Donald Trump, being president, is problematic for them, but less problematic than, say, Hillary Clinton having been president. They're going to focus on what they can, try to get done what they can. But here in this book, "Conscience of a Conservative," you have Jeff Flake, and in this op-ed in "Politico," arguing that can lead to pruritic victories and it really is a Faustian bargain, if you will.

BOLDUAN: He lays it out in many different ways throughout the piece and in the book.

Brianna, also on big news that's faced Capitol Hill and paralyzed Capitol Hill at the moment, some Republican Senators are saying they want to move on from health care, time to move on to tax reform and other things. President Trump is threatening he doesn't want them to move on. He's threatening to end Obamacare subsidies that go to insurance companies to help lower incomes with coverage. Do we know where it stands with the president?

[11:40:25] KEILAR: We do not know. We are told to expect a decision on that this week. This is critical. These subsidies to insurance companies are part of what makes Obamacare work. So, if the White House were to suspend them, which is something Republicans never proposed to do something immediately like that, even when they look at eventually in the far-off distance, phasing out subsidies, it would destabilize the system. Republicans know they would be blamed for that, as would President Trump politically. We don't know where that stands. It's a question of do they keep going on it? The president wants them to. How do they do that? Trying to go back to the drawing board with Republicans? Bring in Democrats? We are hoping to get more answers in the next couple of hours.

BOLDUAN: A lot of questions.

Great to see you, Brianna. Thank you.

KEILAR: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Let's get the answers. Joining me now, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, from Tennessee, is joining us.

Good to see you, Congresswoman. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: First, on Jeff Flake and everything he is laying out in his book and his opinion piece. The way he lays it out is, basically, you all created Donald Trump. He doesn't mean it as a compliment, as you read. What do you say to Senator Flake?

BLACKBURN: Well, there's a couple things to say there. I have always considered him a friend, but what you have to do is look at the fact that the House and the Senate have not met the expectations of the American people. They want to see things done. So, you have to take responsibility for them, absolutely. The coziness of D.C., the people that don't go home every weekend, don't work their districts, those are things that frustrate the American people, and rightfully so. They voted in November to drain the swamp, to make a change, and President Trump is delivering on that promise. He is not working to end --


BOLDUAN: Likewise, on Jeff Flake and you all, not President Trump?

BLACKBURN: I think there is more than enough blame to go around. I absolutely think there is. What we have to be careful about is saying, OK, we realize what's gone wrong and you want answers on health care, answers, tax reform, broad band expansion on high speed Internet, infrastructure, building a wall. These are the things the American people in overwhelming numbers have said they want to see some certainty and action on.

BOLDUAN: "Washington Post" came out with reporting overnight that contrary to what the lawyers to President Trump insisted, the president did not have a hand in crafting the statement and the response about his son's meeting with Russian attorney last year. Contrary to that, the reporting is he actually dictated that message, that initial response that was misleading, and had to evolve. Does that bother you?

BLACKBURN: I think what bothers the American people and my constituents is making certain the economy is growing and they have a job. They are not focused on what is happening with Russia. They are not focused on intrigue. What they want to do is get the economy going, get jobs growth going, get certainty on health care.

I did a telephone town hall last week, and 80 percent of the people on the call wanted to see the Senate pass a bill and get it back to the House to bring some certainty to what is going on with health care. They want to see those issues revolved.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BLACKBURN: That's their focus.

BOLDUAN: It does bother at least one Republican. It bothers Lindsey Graham, Senator Lindsey Graham, very much. He said this to the "Today Show." Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If that's true, it was a bad decision by the president, which will make us ask more questions. When you get caught in a lie about one thing, it makes it hard to say let the other stuff go.


BOLDUAN: Is he right?

BLACKBURN: He is right. It's very difficult because it keeps the story going, when we could be talking about the 400 bills we have passed in the House.

BOLDUAN: Right. BLACKBURN: What we have done for veterans. And the drama of the day

does not serve moving the agenda forward that the American people want to see moved forward.

BOLDUAN: On this one, it was created by the president.

BLACKBURN: This all -- this all continues to evolve. There again, Kate, it's so important to note that the American people are not focused on that. It's jobs, economy, certainty on health care, getting tax reform, getting those --


BOLDUAN: The good thing is we can all walk and chew gum at the same time.


BOLDUAN: We can focus on things important to the American people as long as getting to the truth of what is now an FBI investigation into the president.

[11:45:14] BLACKBURN: That's right. The whole thing to deal with Russia. Let's go back and look at the Clinton Foundation, Uranium One. I think all of this should be done.

What is surprising to me is, it took about 50 years for our colleagues across the aisle to admit Russia was a problem. They always have been a bad actor. I have grown up hearing about Russia being a bad actor and not wishing us well. So --


BOLDUAN: The one thing about that is Russia --


BLACKBURN: So let's get into this.


BOLDUAN: On Russia and being a bad actor. Republicans and Democrats came together on this, actually.

BLACKBURN: They did, finally.

BOLDUAN: Overwhelming bipartisan support. You all got your act together and sent a sanctions bill to the president. He has not signed it yet. Do you know what the delay is?

BLACKBURN: I don't. I do not. We are hard at work, working on committee work, on issues that affect our district, and so I don't know why it has not been signed.

BOLDUAN: Are you certain he is going to sign it?

BLACKBURN: I would think passage of that legislation from both chambers, yes, he would sign that.

BOLDUAN: If he didn't --

BLACKBURN: I would want to know why because there was raw bipartisan agreement on that in both chambers. Let's find out why.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, on health care.


BOLDUAN: You have people all over the map on this one. Republicans talking about it here. Some saying we need to fight and move on. You are going to say my colleagues get to get their act together. This is from leadership, until somebody shows us a way to get to the 50 votes, I think that it's over. That's from John Thune. Do I think we should stay on health care until we get it done? It's time to move on to something else.

Are you ready to move on?

BLACKBURN: No. We made a promise we are going to do this. The Senate likes to work in gangs. You have the Gang of Seven, the Gang of Eight, the Gang of Nine. Let's be the Gang of 51. Show spine and fulfill a promise.

BOLDUAN: They are not showing a spine.

BLACKBURN: Let's fulfill a promise. The promise was made. The president made this promise. Let's get this done. Our constituents want it done. Individual that are being harmed by the Affordable Care Act that insurance is too expensive to use --


BOLDUAN: John McCain voted against it. He was not showing a spine?

BLACKBURN: I would wish that we were in conference on this bill. Each Senator, these Senators need to go to their Tuesday lunch huddle, decide how they are going to address this, and then come out and say this is what we are going to do and what we are going to send back to the House. We need to get this done. The American people are going to hold the House and the Senate responsible if this does not get done. It is -- people are losing insurance every day. The insurance providers are leaving the marketplace. You have 19 million Americans last year that opted themselves out of the Affordable Care Act by paying the penalty --


BOLDUAN: Right now, it seems from people on the outside looking in, there are 19 million ideas to get it done. That's only among the Republican Party.

Let's see where this goes.

BLACKBURN: That's exactly right. BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Congresswoman.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate it.

Coming up for us, a cyber prankster successfully duped several White House officials, including the Homeland Security adviser. Check your e-mails and be careful. We are going to show you the e-mails and tell you what this is all about.


[11:52:41] BOLDUAN: The White House promising the president will sign the new Russia sanctions bill. We assume it's on his desk right now. The question, why hasn't he already? It's been on his desk for days, we hear. Point this out. As long as Congress is in session, the president only has 10 days from the time he's given a bill to sign or veto it before it will become law. Interesting.

Joining me now to discuss this and much more, Jamie Metzl, Michael Allen. They both worked for the National Security Council under Bush and Clinton.

Great to see you both.

Michael, from the time we were looking at this until now, Congress overwhelmingly approved this. Why hasn't the president signed it yet. Does that surprise you at all?

MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: It surprises me a little bit. Depends on whether it's physically been enrolled and brought down by the Congress or not. To be honest, Trump is a little worried what he'll have to say as he accompanies the signing of this piece of legislation, because he's of two minds. One hand, he said he wanted a better relationship with Russia. On the other hand, the political reality is not going to support anything like rapprochement with Putin.

BOLDUAN: And Mike Pence, he's all over the Baltic States, criticizing Russia. But no work from President Trump have we heard following Putin's retaliation for even the fact that these sanctions were even approved. Should he respond?

JAMIE METZL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: The president should respond at this points to the larger point that America's foreign policy in in absolute chaos. Nobody knows who is in charge. Nobody knows who is speaking for whom, or what the president believes. And this one strange silence is on Russia. President Trump is tweeting against China, tweeting all kinds of things, and silent about Russia as these investigations proceed, as Russia is moving very aggressively on NATO's eastern plain. It leaves a lot of open questions.

BOLDUAN: Would you agree the foreign policy is --


ALLEN: No. The White House and West Wing has been chaotic. Last week, the worst weeks in modern presidential modern history. But listen, Pence is in the region reassuring the Baltics we mean business. We've reaffirmed Article V. We are getting along with the Europeans. The president will come out with a tougher China policy this week. The real question to me, what's going to happen on North Korea? You've seen additional ICBM tests. They are climbing up the learning curve. And it's coming at us sooner than we thought.

[11:55:07] BOLDUAN: Jamie, on that front, what to you make of the highly unusual submarine activity on the part of the North Koreans? What does this all mean?

METZL: North Korea is moving towards a more and more deliverable nuclear weapon deterrent, as Michael just said. Just coming back from meetings with all kinds of people with South Korea, Japan, nobody knows what the United States stands for or what we're going to do. Causing huge amount of uncertainty. President Trump, in the beginning, said, we'll get the Chinese to help us out.


METZL: And then there was no leverage. We pulled away all the leverage we had. We undermined our relationship with our allies. Right now, North Koreans are very rational actors. They are moving towards the creation of a deliverable nuclear weapon deterrent. It makes sense from their side. And nobody knows what we're going to do and that creates a lot of uncertainty in the region and around the world.

BOLDUAN: See if we get a clear message from the president when asked those questions.

Great to see you. Jamie, Michael, thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.

METZL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Be back in just a moment.