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Republicans Target Health Care; Interview With California Governor Jerry Brown; GOP Taking Another Shot At Repealing ObamaCare; Graham: Ryan Assured Me If Senate Passes, House Will, Jurors In Mendez Trial To Consider CNN Interview. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 19, 2017 - 16:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Puerto Rico's governor urging citizens in the flood zones to evacuate. Are people heeding the warnings from the government?

WALSH: From what we have seen, yes.

And there are 500 shelters in place. Bear in mind, too, that Puerto Rico has become a shelter for those fleeing the damage from Hurricane Irma on other outlying Caribbean islands.

In fact, I saw some people in the hotel we're staying at last night seeing if they could get a room, because they fled another adjacent island. So, yes, there is definitely concern here the level of shelter that can be provided for people, concern voiced by government officials about how many people have already gone to shelters.

We know, everybody knows this is coming. There's no doubt about that. The question is how seriously are they taking it. You mentioned the possibility in an earlier report of 25 inches of rain. That's kind of up to here on my leg or so.

So we're going to see an incredibly large amount of water dumped on this island. There are many buildings, many trees potentially weakened by Irma. And the question really is exactly how many people have put themselves out of harm's reach and quite what a hurricane of this force -- you have to be over 89 years old to have seen something quite as powerful as this before in your lifetime.

So, serious questions exactly what the days ahead can bring, and we will be standing right in its forthcoming path, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, be safe. Thank you so much.

He's called Trump supporters cave dwellers. He's described Trump's North Korea strategy as stupid and dangerous. Now California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown is here to react to President Trump's unconventional address at the U.N. today. I will talk to the governor next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our politics lead, President Trump today addressing the United Nations General Assembly, calling for North Korean isolation and warning Iran to stop spreading terrorism across the globe.

Notably absent from the president's speech were the words climate change. Mr. Trump has promised to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, despite much criticism from other world leaders, as well as public officials here in the U.S.

Joining me now is one of those critics, California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

Governor Brown, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: OK. Thank you. Glad to be here.

TAPPER: So, yesterday, you suggested President Trump's approach to North Korea was -- quote -- "stupid and dangerous and silly."

I know you don't care for the term Rocket Man about Kim Jong-un. But to play devil's advocate...

BROWN: Sure.

TAPPER: ... is it not possible that this tactic might work? Because everything else has failed with North Korea from Clinton to Bush to Obama, who tried it in the diplomatic way.

BROWN: Yes, if you believe in bluster and starting a bluster war with North Korea, which is what they do. And they are pretty darn good at invective and threats one after the other.

So I think bluster is not the pathway of diplomacy or even statesmanship. Sure, these are real serious issues. No doubt about it. We have got to work closely with China Russia and South Korea and Japan.

But just noise and threats, we are going to kill every man, woman and child in North Korea, that doesn't advance the ball. It just raises the temperature and the exchange of non-rational bluster back and forth. I don't think that's positive.

TAPPER: Speaking of raising the temperature, you are at the U.N. General Assembly with other Democratic governors to participate in Climate Week.

President Trump, we're told, aired his dissatisfaction with the Paris climate agreement during a meeting with the French president, saying that other countries, namely China, received a better deal than the United States. Is it not true that China set lower standards for itself than did the


BROWN: Look, China is doing more than the U.S. right now.

They are closing down coal plants. They are massively investing in solar and wind. They are mastering battery technology, which will help America. So, this point that America got a bad deal is fake. It's more fake than any fake news assertion by President Trump.

This agreement is so fundamental. I mean, you watch all these hurricanes and the devastation, you can't take your mind off extreme weather events. That's exactly what climate change is going to bring about.

It may already be bringing them about. So to omit that, an existential threat, climate change, that's what it is, it's irresponsible, it's blind. It's almost -- I don't even know how he gets away with that. I have to call that fake news or whatever you call the president's speech of that order.

TAPPER: In reference to climate change, this week, you compared Trump supporters to cave dwellers.

You said -- quote -- "You should check out the derivation of Trumpite and troglodyte, because they both refer to people who dwell in deep, dark caves."

Are you really calling the nearly 63 million Trump voters cave dwellers?

BROWN: No. No.

And if you saw your own words there, it was about Trumpite and troglodyte. It wasn't about the millions of voters who voted for President Trump, many of which are right in California.

No, the people who closely advise climate denial, advise bluster wars, advise stigmatizing and delegitimizing our entire news industry as fake, yes, that is really -- I don't want to call them cave dwellers, because cave dwellers didn't have TV like that.

But it is a blindness. It's a darkness that evades the truth. It really generates the kind of disinformation that undermines democracy and doesn't build dialogue which we desperately need in this country and between nations around the world.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about some legislation that you have on your desk. Over the weekend, California passed a bill making the Golden State a sanctuary state.

BROWN: No, wait a minute.

There is no word sanctuary. This is a bill to have the immigration service do their own work, and not attempt to conscript state officials into being part of the immigration service. It does allow close cooperation on data, on drug busts and drug raids, and also working with the immigration service, whether it's from our prisons, or from the jails, when you are dealing with serious criminals.


So it protects public safety, but it also protects hardworking people who have contributed a lot to California.

TAPPER: Hardworking people who are undocumented immigrants?


By the way, they have got a couple million working. Our agricultural industry, our hospitality industry, our construction industry, they would be in deep trouble without those same people. And that's why we need immigration reform, not bluster, not rhetoric and not this kind of xenophobia that we see too much of coming out of Washington.

TAPPER: Do you think that complying with federal immigration laws, it's optional? Because that would be the counterargument.

BROWN: No. No. And we comply with immigration laws.

We are not soldiers of Donald Trump or the federal immigration service. We have our own laws, to arrest criminals, to give them a jury trial, and then to provide appropriate punishment. That's our job.

Now, the immigration people can come over to our jails, they can interview people, they can pick up people that they think are appropriate. But don't tell California to do your work. In fact, there are many cases of people who the immigration service said they wanted, and they don't even show up to come to get them.

So this is a well-balanced bill. The police chief of Los Angeles supported it. There's a number of law enforcement firms officials who said it was much better piece of legislation than what was originally introduced and which got the name sanctuary city or sanctuary state.

TAPPER: Another piece of legislation passed in the California state legislature Friday would require presidential candidates to release their five most recent years of tax reforms in order to be able to get on the California ballot.

President Trump has, of course, infamously refused to release his returns. He says he's under audit. You also have not released your tax returns. Do you plan to sign...

BROWN: Well, actually, I did release them in my earlier campaigns. This time around, my opponents wouldn't do it, so I didn't either.

I'm not going to tell you what I will do on the bill. I want to read it. I want to look at the legality in the face of federal law.

So, we will take a look at it. I generally don't opine on the 600 bills that the legislature leaves on my desk. I take a look at each one. And I will give this a fair read. And you will hear my decision very soon.

TAPPER: All right, California Governor Jerry Brown, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

BROWN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next: the new life Republicans are pumping into yet another effort to repeal and replace Obamacare -- why the clock is ticking fast on what could really be a final Hail Mary attempt.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: We're back with more on our "POLITICS LEAD." I know you heard me say this before, but this really could be the Republican's last chance to repeal ObamaCare. And they are taking it very seriously. This afternoon Vice President Mike Pence rushed to get back to Washington from New York despite a full day of meeting at the U.N. so he could meet with Senate Republicans for lunch. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who spearheading the latest repeal effort flew back with the Vice President on Air Force II where they discussed this effort. CNN's Phil Mattingly joins me now live from Capitol Hill. And Phil, Senate Republicans just finished their closed-door meetings. What came out of it?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think, the primary -- the primary thing here Jake, that you need to recognize is that Senate Republicans are still trying to get their heads around the proposal. That's kind of the biggest takeaway right now, is the main focus of this closed-door meeting was trying to get information, details from the Health and Human Services Department, from the CMS, Centers for Medicaid Services trying to understand what exactly it would do. It really kind of came out of nowhere. But one of the messages I had erred from multiple people who are inside the meeting from both the Vice President and from Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the co-authors of this bill, is this is, as you noted Jake, your last chance. It's something that Senator Graham kind of put in very stark terms after that meeting.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: At the end of the day, this is the only process left available to stop a march towards socialism. We have between now and the end of the month to have a vote and debate about whether this is better than the status quo. My friends on the other side are never going to agree to a bipartisan proposal that does anything other than prop up ObamaCare. I've talked to the President five times in the last two days. He is focused like a laser. He has told me he's not going to throw good money after bad. He's very excited about this state-centric health care system.


MATTINGLY: So, Jake, the White House is behind this. Obviously, Senate Republican leadership is behind this. The big question as it has always been throughout the course of the last nine months is, can they actually get to 50 votes? And they don't have the answer yet. The reality is, they don't have the votes yet. There are a lot of Senators, most notably people like Senator John McCain, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski who are either saying they have problems with this, either on the process or in the policy and frankly they just want to know more. That's what they're going to need to figure out. And as you noted, they have a very comprised timetable to do so, just 11 days left in that budget window that allows them to pass this with a simple majority. They need to move and they need to move quickly. I will note Jake, people asked Senator McConnell, the Majority Leader multiple times today, will you put this on the floor no matter what? And he demurred. There is a good reason. They don't want another failure. They want to figure out a way to get to 50 and if they don't, there's a pretty good chance this dies. Jake?

TAPPER: So I know that this bill would ban women from using Medicaid dollars at Planned Parenthood Clinics and that would probably be a no starter for Senator Susan Collins of Maine. What are some of the other items in this Graham legislation, Graham-Cassidy that Republican Senators are having a tough time supporting?

[16:50:08] MATTINGLY: It's really interesting. If you paid tension over the course of the last couple months, the debate of the bill that imploded in July come at the red lines for multiple Senators, whether it changes to the Medicaid expansion or anything the Medicaid expansion altogether, like you noted Planned Parenthood, not just an issue for Susan Collins but an issue for Lisa Murkowski as well and preexisting conditions. Something that several Senators said was a nonstarter for them. Jake, all of those are back on the table right now in this bill. Now, there's key components in this bill that you'll recognize.

The repeal of the individual mandate, the repeal of the employer mandate, as you noted the essential defunding of Planned Parenthood for a year. But the biggest change is how they would be shifting the subsidy system that currently exists in ObamaCare and that would have existed in some of the other Republican plans altogether. scraps it entirely and changes taking the Medicaid expansion and the ObamaCare taxes, putting all that money together, and giving it up via block grants to the states. Here's the issue with that right now that Senators are trying to get their heads around. If you come from a state that expanded under ObamaCare, expanded Medicaid, you will most likely be a loser as this all plays out. You will get significantly less funding over the course of the 10-year period.

So states are trying to figure out how will formulas affect this. Obviously, on its face, the idea that governors and state legislators are will be deciding how a health care system would work. That's very attractive to Republicans. But these is real dollars, these are real programs. And as we have seen throughout the country, a lot of states are very tight in terms of how their budgets are right now. So figuring out those answers will really determine whether or not this moves forward. And one last thing, as I noted pre-existing conditions. One of the attractive options for a lot of Republicans here is this state -- this bill gives states a lot of flexibility in terms of how they deal with the existing ObamaCare regulations.

Now, the bill explicitly bans insurers from keeping people from buying plans just because they do have pre-existing conditions but it does give states flexibility to essentially change or shift the price protections for those with pre-existing conditions that currently exist. That has been problematic up to this point. That is an issue Senators are looking at right now. The big question now is that something that's going to short-circuit this all together. Or will people who understand they made these promises for last seven years about ObamaCare choose to go that route as opposed to things that they very clearly oppose over the last couple of months. Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, being allowed to buy health insurance even if you have the pre-existing conditions but the insurance cost you 200,000 a year is not much of a protection. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much. I appreciate it. My political panel joins me now. David Urban, I want to start with something that Steve Schmidt, Senator John McCain's Senior Adviser during the 2008 campaign said about this legislation. He said, "voting for something that touches one-sixth of the economy and affects every American without knowing the cost is and apathetical to conservatism." Obviously, that's about the fact that there -- this process is quick and they're not waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to analyze it, et cetera. Does he have a point?

DAVID URBAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, of course, he has a point, right? I mean, but the Congressional Budget Office also doesn't always get it right. As we saw when this was rolled out in the first place, right? It was -- the cost for ObamaCare is much larger. Look, I think they slowed it down sufficiently to get explanations. Each Senator is getting walked through it by Senator Graham, Senator Cassidy. I think you're going to see Senator McCain on board at the end of the day.

And then, you know, who else is going to join us? Senator Murkowski, I think they'll get the votes for this. I think they're going to pass it next week. I think the House is going to pass it. The President is going to sign. There's a lot of momentum on this, not a lot of pressure in a very short time period to get it done. And as you, and as Jen knows, that's how most things get done in this town, right? It's not done over months and months back step against the deadlines. People pay attention, they focus intensely, and they get things done.

TAPPER: It is interesting, though, because you are seeing people who opposed something before, now talk about voting for this even though it has the same provisions. David predicting Senator John McCain will vote for this. McCain really talking about the process, how much he hated the process last time. The process not too dissimilar this time, but do you think it might actually pass?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It certainly could. And I think this came as surprise to a lot of Democrats part because the process was done in the dark of night, but part because people start to tune out in August when a lot of this was being done by the Republican Senator and people who are working on this. I think beyond the process pieces the pieces that are very similar are also the substance. So it's hard to understand how people like Lisa Murkowski or others who are vehemently against the last version of this bill could be for a bill that also guts Medicaid, also takes away protections for pre-existing conditions. I suspect those are questions they're going to have to answer to their constituents as well.

TAPPER: It's not the reason why this bill is moving forward but there are so many other big stories going on, hurricanes, et cetera, that they are benefiting from not a lot of attention.

URBAN: And also, look, I think Senator Sanders press conference and the parade of progressive Democrats saying this single payer, this is where we want to go, has really focused a lot of Republicans into thinking that their colleagues aren't going to be so willing to work across the aisle in some big, expansive way to get to -- get to a half a loaf. I mean, there are a lot of progress Democrats that want it their way and don't want any other way. And so, I think some of these Republicans are taking a second look now.

[16:55:10] PSAKI: Well, to be fair, they haven't been invited to be part of the discussion or the process. It is true that the Democratic Party is divided between single payer and you know, fixing ObamaCare. But I think the factor here beyond the point about the news which is a huge one, is also that September 30th, it is the last chance they have. That's very soon. They have to do it before then for reconciliation vote purposes. There's not another chance. They know the election is next year. Some members feel they really need to get this done in order to you know, get the base going for them next year.

TAPPER: And just to explain -- just to explain what Jen is talking about. The rules are without getting into arcana so much, right now they only need 51 votes. After the deadline, they need 60 votes. And they don't have 60 because Republicans only have 52 votes. Speaking of votes there is a Democratic vote, Senator Bob Menendez right now who is in court. Jurors are deliberating over bribery charges against him and those jurors are going to be shown new evidence tomorrow. That interview will be the evidence that Senator Menendez did with CNN in 2013. He's charged with accepting bribes on private jets and (INAUDIBLE) vacations from a friend in exchange for political favors. Here is what Senator Menendez told our Dana Bash about retroactively paying for these flights. This is what he said in 2013.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator, if you can explain why it took so long to pay back almost $60,000 in flights that you took with your friend?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I was in a big travel schedule in 2010 as the Chair of the DSCC plus my own campaign getting ready for re-election cycle. And in the process of all of that, it, unfortunately, fell through the cracks that our processes didn't catch it moving forward making sure we paid.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Obviously Senator Menendez firmly denies all of the charges against him. This does put Democrats in awkward position, not just because they need his vote, and he has been told that he doesn't get to skip the trial to attend votes. But also at some point, there's going to be a verdict and every Democrat is going to have to say whether or not Senator Menendez, especially if the verdict was a bad one, for him whether or not he needs to resign.

PSAKI: That's right. And we have seen this movie before far too often in Washington with both parties. This is a case where obviously Dana's interview shows his answers didn't really pass the smell test. It is true that some of the flights, as he said, were not problematic, but it's hard to understand. So Democrats should start thinking about it. We have to think about the greater whole here. Obviously, we should see what the outcome is, but it's going to be upcoming challenges.

TAPPER: Chris Christie still has a few more months if this verdict comes down before January where he will get to name the Senator in New Jersey who replaces Menendez assuming a whole bunch of if's.

URBAN: Sure.

TAPPER: I have told Senator -- I've told Governor Christie that I think he should appoint Springsteen, I don't think he took that suggestion seriously, but he could a point himself.

URBAN: He could appoint himself. Look, let's not -- let's not rush to judgment here. As Jen states this has happened on numerous occasions, right, with people who are good and decent folks. Like -- I always like to point out a gentleman I greatly admired was Senator -- late Senator Ted Stevens who was wrong in the line and cleared years later after he had passed away. So let's give the Department of Justice and the justice system its due course. That's why we have trials. Let's see all the evidence. I'm not going to dogpile on this one and let's just wait and see how it plays out.

TAPPER: There is something interesting about this which is -- especially after the trial of the Virginia Governor, what's politics and you know, you have rich friends and you have donors and then maybe sometimes you do something for them, but it's not necessarily a quid pro quo and what is actually corruption and sometimes the campaign laws in this country and state by state are difficult to navigate. I'm not trying to defend corruption.

Urban: OK. It's quite likely that he may be telling the truth that it was a very confusing travel schedule and he was trying to catch up on (INAUDIBLE). I'm not trying to defend Senator Menendez but he may have been telling the truth. You know, it's a very complex travel schedule, it's not a mistake. Some paid by the DSCC. Some paid by personal campaign. It has to be paid correctly or get in trouble then. And so he could might well -- might be telling the truth so let's withhold judgment.

TAPPER: That's what defense witnesses say. PSAKI: Look, I think that there is -- it's always bad to blame staff.

But there is a reality here that this does fall on staff a lot. And you have to be so careful about how things are paid for. All of these are lessons for people who have up and coming rising members who are going to be take on chairmanships of committees. We shouldn't rush to judgment but it's a reminder.

TAPPER: Jen Psaki, David Urban, thanks so much. Great to have you guys here. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @JAKE TAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read them. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks so much for watching.