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Does Republican Health Care Effort Gut Preexisting Condition Protection?; Search for Survivors Following Mexico Earthquake. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 16:30   ET



JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": These were his words. He said he wants coverage for all, no discrimination based on preexisting conditions, lower premiums for middle-class families, and no lifetime caps.

And guess what? The new bill does none of those things. And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.

Do you believe that every American, regardless of income, should be able to get regular checkups, maternity care, et cetera, all of those things that people who have health care get and need?


KIMMEL: So, "Yep" is Washington for nope, I guess.


KIMMEL: Stop using my name, OK, because I don't want my name on it. There is a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you. It's called the lie- detector test.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Cassidy was asked about Kimmel's monologue on CNN's "NEW DAY" earlier today. Here was his response.


CASSIDY: I'm sorry he does not understand.

Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson, more people will have coverage and we protect those with preexisting conditions. States like Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, there will be billions more dollars to provide health insurance coverage for those in those states who have been passed by, by Obamacare. And we protect those with preexisting conditions.


TAPPER: CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now from the Capitol. Phil, truth squad this for us. Who is right here, Jimmy Kimmel or

Senator Cassidy in terms of the description of the bill? For instance, would this bill, would the Cassidy-Graham bill allow insurance companies in some cases to discriminate against those who have preexisting conditions?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so let's take them piece by piece.

And these are two very wide bold, wide-ranging statements by two individuals an issue that's both nuanced and very complex.

Let's take the preexisting conditions issue. Now, not unlike Obamacare, Graham-Cassidy contains the ban on insurers being able to deny anybody coverage for preexisting conditions. So, that stays. That's accurate.

But go deeper into the bill -- and this is what Jimmy Kimmel was referring to specifically -- states would have the opportunity to gain a waiver to get out of specific regulations. One of those regulations? The price protections for individuals with preexisting conditions.

And I want to read the language to you specifically, because this is important. It says the state would be able to get a waiver to -- quote -- "intends to maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions."

Now, that right there is why Senator Cassidy says the guarantee remains. But those are very ambiguous words. Those words are not defined, adequate or affordable.

And health insurers themselves, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has already come out and say they believe that gives space for states to basically do away with those price protections.

So, in that, right now, if you talk to people outside, inside this debate right now, they believe the price protections for preexisting conditions are very much in the air.

Now, Jake, I want to move to another one, premiums. This was a big guarantee. This has been a big issue throughout this debate. Now, states giving flexibility, like I was talking about, is designed to bring down premiums. So is the subsidies that are supposed to help as well.

Because this is done in a block grant manner, states would be able to essentially decide what system they would put in place. They could decide how much money they want to put to helping people bring down premiums.

Here's the issue. The spending in these block grants would be less than currently exists under Obamacare. On top of that, states are dealing with budget issues right now. So, that is still a very open question and there are not really good statistics on that. Another one want to look at, lifetime caps. This was a big issue for Jimmy Kimmel. Not unlike preexisting conditions, in bill, the ban on lifetime caps exists. But the bill gives people opportunities to waive state regulations on essential health benefits.

These two things, Jake, are very interconnected. And that's why when you talk to outside analysts, they believe those are also potentially on the chopping block.

And, finally, he talks more people being covered than Obamacare, more people, universal coverage at one point. It's just hard to see that working right now because of the money, because states would be getting less money, because the Medicaid program would be changed from open-ended entitlement to a per capita program.

Better coverage? Perhaps. That's what the senators are going for right now. But more bold claims about universal coverage or more being covered, right now, the numbers don't add up to that, Jake..

TAPPER: And it certainly sounds like the guarantees on preexisting conditions and lifetime caps are not actually guarantees.

Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our political panel.

And former President Obama gave a keynote address at the Gates Foundation earlier today. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so when I see people trying to undo that hard-won progress for the 50th or 60th time...


OBAMA: ... with bills that would raise costs or reduce coverage or roll back protections for older Americans or people with preexisting conditions, the cancer survivor, the expecting mom or the child with autism or asthma, for whom coverage once again would be almost unattainable, it is aggravating.


TAPPER: Inappropriate for him to talk about this? It is his signature legacy.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, hey, I have no problem with President Obama weighing in on this debate.

But I agree with him. This health care process is very aggravating. And one thing I do see recognition from Democrats are is that Obamacare does have problems.

[16:35:05] What I don't see are any fixes coming from them. Instead, the

problems contained in Obamacare, they just seem to want to use as leverage to get Medicare for all.

So we are at this like blocking point, where people can't come up with good practical solutions. And what Republicans are doing with this latest fix is essentially saying let's find just a way to just make it not our problem.

That's what this whole block grant program is designed to do, just get it out of Washington. And that's why no one knows what they are going to get, because we don't know what states are going to do for their own citizens, which is good theoretically from a federalist perspective.

But if you are on a consumer on the ground not knowing what your health care plan is going to look like a year from now, that is hugely problematic. And I don't see how Republicans are going to be able to message that.

TAPPER: There was an effort to come together on a bipartisan health care bill.

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington state, and Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican of Tennessee, were working something, but apparently Republican leadership kind of put an end to it because they wanted to focus on this Graham-Cassidy bill.

EMILY TISCH-SUSSMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That was actually one of the most encouraging things we have seen come out of this Congress.

They were finally acting like Congress, acting in the best interests of the people in a bipartisan way. From everything we were hearing on Capitol Hill, that process was actually going very well, that Murray Alexander were working together quite well. They were going senator by senator, saying, hey, let's take the politics out of this and decide how we get to universal coverage or not universal coverage at a later point, but for now, let's make sure the program maintains and we can actually help people get the subsidies and the tax credits at this point.

We were actually very hopeful that Senator Alexander would be able to talk some sense into Republican leadership to say, hey, just because you guys are on a time limit, just because you're trying to jam this thing down by September 30, please don't mess with my process. Let this go forward.

It was very discouraging to see him last night to say the bipartisan process has broken down. That was really partisanship over the process.

TAPPER: Democrats have said they had made a number of concessions on this health care bill, including allowing states to take up more of the slack.

CARPENTER: Right. But I don't think -- listen, you are not going to have excitement. I

don't see excitement from anyone on either side of the aisle, except from maybe Lindsey Graham right now, because he's trying to sell his own bill, about any solution, because no one can guarantee that premiums, deductibles, actual costs are going down.

Until they can find a way to do that, I don't think anybody is going to pass anything.

TAPPER: All right, Amanda Carpenter, Emily Tisch-Sussman, thank so much.

Now to the world lead, at least 225 dead, millions without power, historic buildings badly damaged. Next, we are going to go live to Mexico City, which is still reeling from yesterday's destructive earthquake and still trying to dig people out from underneath the rubble.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

Another horrific natural disaster. In our world lead, rescue workers and ordinary citizens desperately digging for signs of life at a school in Mexico where 21 children were children.

Two children remain missing after that 7.1-magnitude earthquake left death and destruction across Central Mexico. The Mexican government says at least 225 people were killed. Tragically, that number is likely to go up.

I want to bring in CNN's Miguel Marquez live from Mexico City.

Miguel, are there any hopeful other signs whether rescuers are closer to locating anybody who is missing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pace here at the school has really quickened in the last couple of hours, Jake.

I want to show you some of what's happening right now. We're able to speak sort of freely right now. For the last hour, hour-and-a-half or so, every few minutes, rescuers will ask for complete silence, and they get it.

Hundreds, if not 1,000 or more people gathered here will completely go pin-drop silence to see if they can -- so the rescuers can see if they can hear anything of a little girl trapped inside, just one heart- wrenching rescue in this wide swathe of destruction.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): Hand by hand, brick by brick, residents and rescuers alike are working around the clock to find survivors of Tuesday's deadly 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico.

Here in Mexico City, 75 miles from the epicenter, all eyes on this elementary change, where rescuers work to reach survivors they believe may still be trapped inside.

Immediately after the quake yesterday, these children were pulled from their collapsed classrooms.

CNN has now learned at least 21 of their young schoolmates have died, along with four adults.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Emotions are very difficult to control and see what is happening to our neighbors, even though we do not know them. It hurts us and we put ourselves in the situation of the parents and of the children that are trapped in that school. That is really painful.

MARQUEZ: Across the city, scenes of determination, as hundreds band together to remove debris and find the missing.

Others, like these teachers, provide comfort to the tragedy's youngest witnesses with songs. And more help is on the way at this airport in Panama, rescue workers in full gear lined up to board flights headed for the disaster zone.

Here's what they will find, at this site of demolished buildings, handwritten signs and fists raised high requesting silence, so crews might hear calls from beneath heaps of concrete.

Still, those signs of sirens are welcome here, a passing ambulance a possible indication that someone's loved one has been found alive.


MARQUEZ: Now, Jake, what you are looking at are people holding their hands up. They have asked that the crowd go silent again.

I can give you a little sense of just how quiet it gets here. It is eerie to think that this is the sign of hope in Mexico today -- Jake.

TAPPER: Miguel Marquez thanks so much. There's also breaking news in the Russia investigation today. A new report says the Special Counsel is asking for information on Donald Trump actions as President. What might that mean? We'll talk about it the top Democratic on the Senate Intelligence Committee next.


TAPPER: And we're back with more on our "POLITICS LEAD" and the widening scope of the Russia investigation. The New York Times is reporting this afternoon that the Head of the Justice Department's Russia probe Bob Mueller has asked the White House for more information on actions President Trump has taken while in office, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Mueller has also interviewed the same man who appointed him to the job, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about his role in Comey's firing. That's as we're learning the Mueller team is reaching back more than into a decade into former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort past looking for any possible crimes committed as far back as 2006 which suggests the Russian probe has widened considerably beyond Russian meddling and into possible tax or financial crimes.

Joining me now to discuss all this is Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, thanks for joining us. Your Committee Chairman Richard Burr said he planned to call a public hearing with Facebook and other social media companies next month. I guess one of the big questions is, we know that Russian bots and Russian troll factories took out fake news ads on Facebook. Is there any indication that any of these Russians who were behind the social media campaign were given any information from any Americans on the best way to in influence the election via social media?

[16:51:07] SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, Jake, we don't have the answer to that yet. It's one of the reasons why we want to hear from Facebook. We're going to hear from Twitter next week. You know, what we do know in terms of the investigations is Russian hacked into both political parties, released information on one party to help Mr. Trump and hurt Clinton. They attacked 21 states electoral systems and unfortunately our Department of Homeland Security hasn't shared that information with the top election official.

So I'm not sure we're prepared on how we stop them coming back next year. And we increasingly know that they used both paid advertising and equally, if not more, I think significant, a number of fake accounts and dummy accounts to try to drive stories, drive -- actually seen more recent stories where they were trying to drive Americans to come out towards anti-Clinton rallies. So the level of sophistication of some of this effort on the social media side and the level of targeting is really -- leaves me with a lot of questions and questions we're going to want Facebook to answer in public.

TAPPER: But just to be clear you don't know of any evidence as of now that any of these Russians got any information on what states to target or what demographics to target or anything like that from anybody in the United States?

WARNER: Jake, we -- I can't answer that question yet because we don't -- we've not had all of the appropriate individuals in yet to be interviewed. And that's one of the questions I have. I am concerned, though, as somebody who's -- listen, I'm a fan of Facebook, I'm a user of Facebook. Majority of Americans use Facebook on a daily basis. But I've been worried for some time that I raise this issue last winter, Facebook response initially was, hey, these guys don't know what they are talking about. There's nothing there. We're increasingly seeing -- there is a lot there and there more comes out each day.

And let me give you and the audience one reference point. By the time that French elections happened in the spring, Facebook worked with French and took down50,000 accounts that they felt were related to Russian activity. In America so far, Facebook has only identified 470 accounts. To me, that just doesn't pass the smell test in terms of that number of accounts affiliated with Russia. I think there is a lot more and we're seeing almost on a daily basis. A litany of stories come out whether it's fake accounts, fake advertising, efforts to try to bring people to rallies. And I think the sooner Facebook is more transparent the better.

TAPPER: Yesterday your committee excused early Trump's business Attorney Michael Cohen. You were upset that he had released a statement to the media. Can you tell us more about that and when might he be brought to speak before the Committee and answer questions?

WARNER: Well, we hope to bring Mr. Cohn back in October in a public setting. We've had most of these preliminary interviews in private so the staff can go through a lengthy process. And we've done this on an invitation basis. But we've also said to witnesses we're not going to have some witness come in without Senators there, and then go out and make some public statement saying in effect there's no there-there.

That's not fair. That's not right. Mr. Cohn who has had a colorful past, to say the least, I think tried to pull a fast one and tried to put out a public statement. And we said, you want to violate our rules, fine, we'll have you back in public and let all the Committee members ask him questions directly because clearly from mentions in the dossier to activities involved with Trump Tower Moscow to a series of other issues, there are a lot of questions Mr. Cohen he has to answer.

TAPPER: We only have about 45 seconds Sir, but I do want to ask you the New York Times is now reporting that Bob Mueller has asked the White House more information regarding a number of decisions President Trump has made including the firing of James Comey. Does that suggest that the President himself is a target and possibly is being investigated for a possible obstruction of justice?

[16:55:10] WARNER: I'm not going to comment and shouldn't comment on the directions of Mr. Mueller's investigation. I do know that I think a lot of Americans want to know why right after the President fired FBI Director Comey, he went in and bragged about it in front of the Russian Ambassador and said firing Comey took a lot of pressure off and he called Comey no matter what you think of him, I think he called him a nut job or something like that. That seems to me very inappropriate. And just -- I have to tell you, just as an American, I'd like to know what was the thinking behind the President at that point.

TAPPER: Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, always good to see you. Thank you, Sir.

WARNER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming ahead the breaking news. Hurricane Maria slamming Puerto Rico and leaving the U.S. Territory into total blackout. Coming up, where does this destructive storm is headed next. Stay with us.