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THE SITUATION ROOM
Puerto Rico Possibly Without Power for Months after Hurricane; Trump Slaps New Sanctions on North Korea; Facebook to Hand Over Russian Ads to Congress. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 21, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERMAN: I turn you over to Jim Acosta now in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:00:07] JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, rising waters. Flooding is now threatening lives on Puerto Rico lashed by Hurricane Maria and possibly facing months without power. The killer storm is now bearing down on more Caribbean islands, and there's a new forecast out this hour.
Cutting Kim's cash. President Trump signs an executive order imposing new sanctions on North Korea for its aggressive nuclear weapons program. The U.S. is now targeting people and companies that do business with the Kim regime. Will the new move slow North Korea's quest for weapons of mass destruction?
Late-night lashing. Jimmy Kimmel goes after one of the senators behind the latest GOP effort to repeal Obamacare and accuses the lawmaker of lying about the bill the Senate is now rushing to pass, but a handful of Republicans are still not on board. Is the party facing another health care failure?
And, Russian ads. Facebook announces it will give congressional investigators thousands of ads linked to Russian accounts that ran during the presidential election. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg says there may be even more evidence of Russian meddling.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ACOSTA: We're following breaking news. Hurricane Maria on a deadly and devastating march across the Caribbean. The storm has laid waste to Puerto Rico, which could be without power for months. President Trump says the U.S. territory has been absolutely obliterated, and the danger isn't over. The storm is inundating the island with rain, and we've seen many dramatic rescues from the flood water.
Also breaking, President Trump has signed an executive order slapping new sanctions on North Korea for its continued defiant nuclear tests and missile launches. The sanctions target financial institutions and individuals that do business with North Korea.
Also breaking, a short time ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went live on the social network to announce it will share information with Congress about Russian ads designed to influence the presidential election. The company has already given details about the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his Russia investigation.
We're covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including Congressman Eric Swalwell of the House Intelligence Committee. Our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
We begin with the devastation on Puerto Rico. CNN's Leyla Santiago is there for us.
Leyla, Hurricane Maria has crippled that island, and the danger, from what we can tell, is far from over.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, where we are right now in San Juan, you can kind of get a little bit of a taste of what this island is seeing, debris even close to the coast in this tourist area.
But we went about ten miles that way, and what you see on the ground, and from the air there, completely different.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): This is the path that Maria left behind. CNN drone footage gives us our first aerial view of the hurricane's aftermath in Puerto Rico. Roads now rivers, homes demolished, and a once lush landscape reduced to twigs.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They say they've never seen winds like this.
SANTIAGO: President Trump has now declared the U.S. territory a disaster.
TRUMP: Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated. Their electrical grid is destroyed.
SANTIAGO: All 3.4 million residents here are without power, 100 for some of the island. Officials warn it could be months before electricity is restored.
And Puerto Rico is not out of harm's way yet. The island was under flash flood warnings much of the day, the National Weather Service reports more than 30 inches of rains here in the last 24 hours. And more is on the way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of water here.
SANTIAGO: At San Juan Airport, air traffic controller Quiana El Rios (ph) filmed this video of destroyed terminals, saying it was, quote, "raining inside." Airport management says some commercial flights will resume tomorrow.
It's just a single step in a very long road to recovery. San Juan's mayor told NBC she has never seen her city like this.
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: The Puerto Rico and the San Juan we knew yesterday is no longer there. So we have to reconstruct, rebuild, reinvent and we have to be resilient. And we have to push on.
SANTIAGO: Puerto Rico's economy, heavily reliant on tourism, has been in recession for more than a decade. With much of the vacation destination now heavily damaged, recovery will require not just resilience but robust financial support.
SANTIAGO: And you know, flooded roads and debris on the roads have really made it nearly impossible to get near some parts of the island. But some of the big, big challenges right now, power, we mentioned it. It could be months before this island sees that again. These hotels and this area are running on generators.
[17:05:10] And then, Jim, communication. Communication. I can't tell you how many people have reached out to me to say, "Have you been to this part of the island? Have you heard from this part of the island?" It is very hard right now to reach certain parts of the island, not just by road, but even by phone. A lot of people not being able to communicate even with family members and loved ones still at this hour.
ACOSTA: All right, Leyla Santiago, thank you very much for painting that grim picture for us. They need help down there in Puerto Rico. We appreciate it.
Right now Hurricane Maria is taking aim at the Dominican Republic. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking the storm for us.
Allison, there's a new forecast that's just been released by the National Hurricane Center. What can you tell us?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not much has changed. Now, that could be a good thing and a bad thing.
On the bright side, it has not gotten worse, which we like to see. Because the potential was there. It's back out over open water. Here's a look at the storm. You can see, we still have heavy bands of rain, even pushing into Puerto Rico. But some of the heaviest rain and strongest winds are now over areas of the Dominican Republic, making its way towards the Turks and Caicos. Winds right now 120 miles per hour, gusting up to 150.
Notice the trek, though, as it takes it off to the north. We do expect it to weaken quickly. That's because the water there is much cooler. That's not what a hurricane wants. It wants warm water for fuel. So that's at least one good note for folks in the U.S. who are watching this very closely.
Now the models at this point show that it is not likely to have a direct landfall with this storm. Here you are looking at next Thursday, a week from today. Notice they get close but don't actually make a direct landfall. But Jim, I'd like to point out, even if they don't make a direct landfall, this close in proximity to the U.S. will still cause dangerous rip currents, coastal flooding, beach erosion, damaging tropical-storm-force winds. So all of those are still going to be a possibility, even if we don't end up getting a direct U.S. landfall from Maria.
ACOSTA: All right. Something to keep our eyes on. It could move, and we have to definitely keep our eye on that. Allison Chinchar, thank you very much.
President Trump is slapping new sanctions on North Korea in response to its increasingly aggressive quest for nuclear weapons. CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones has the latest.
Athena, these sanctions come via executive order from the president announced today. Isn't that right?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Jim, that's right. This order provides new authorities to target individuals, companies, and financial institutions doing business with North Korea, but there was another interesting thing that happens on -- happened on this issue today.
Even as the president was announcing these new moves against the regime, he also signaled he remains open to diplomacy, despite saying just last month that talking is not the answer when it comes to reigning in North Korea. Asked today if dialogue with the country is still possible, the president said, why not?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world.
JONES (voice-over): President Trump announcing a new round of U.S. economic sanctions on North Korea, aimed at deterring the regime's rapidly advancing nuclear program. The moves target individuals, companies, and financial institutions.
TRUMP: Our new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea's efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind.
JONES: The announcement, with Mr. Trump flanked by leaders of South Korea and Japan, comes less than a week after the rogue regime launched an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan for the second time in less than a month.
TRUMP: Foreign banks will face a clear choice: do business with the United States or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.
JONES: But years of sanctions, including some of the toughest ever to be approved by the United Nations Security Council in response to ballistic missile tests have so far failed to reign in Pyongyang's provocative actions. Neither, it seems, has the president's tough talk toward the regime. TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience, but if it
is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.
JONES: The latest sanctions come as a CNN poll out today shows the president's approval rating of his handling of North Korea edging up slightly to 41 percent, compared to 37 percent last month.
This as the percentage of Americans who see North Korea as an immediate threat jumped to 50 percent from just 37 percent in April.
And 58 percent now say they support military action against the North if economic sanctions and diplomacy don't work. That's up from 38 percent in 2012.
Trump's overall approval is also ticking up slightly, to 40 percent from 38 percent last month, with 64 percent of those polled approving of his handling of the hurricanes that battered the southern U.S. and its Caribbean territories in recent weeks.
[17:10:03] Trump tweeting support for Puerto Rico, hit hard by Hurricane Maria. And telling reporters...
TRUMP: Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated.
JONES: Meanwhile, the White House is hinting the president will likely push for changes to the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has slammed as an embarrassment.
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think what's different about the president's approach is that he didn't look just at the Iran deal. He placed his decision on the Iran deal in broad context of how we protect American citizens, American interests, how we protect our allies and partners from Iran's broad range of destabilizing behavior.
JONES: Administration officials say, while the president may not scrap the deal entirely, he would like to renegotiate some aspects of it, like the sunset provision that allows some limits on Iran's nuclear program to expire.
He also wants to address the country's ballistic missile program, which was not included in the original deal.
JONES: Now White House aides have been encouraged by comments from leaders like French President Emanuel Macron, who expressed support this week for adding new provisions to the Iran deal.
Meanwhile, past opponents of the deal, like Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul and New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer are arguing now against blowing it up. Paul telling Politico his main concern is compliance, and if Iran is complying, the U.S. should stay in it, Schumer echoing that view, Jim. ACOSTA: CNN's Athena Jones, thank you very much. Let's get more on
all of this with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
And Congressman, what do you make of the president's announcement today? A far more serious tone coming from the president than when he was talking about Rocket Man at the U.N. a couple of days ago?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: A broken clock is right twice a day. We need this president on this issue to be right every hour. I think you miss an opportunity to convene the Chinese, the Japanese, and the South Koreans and show that we are united, despite differences in other areas, against North Korea.
I also fear that his rhetoric around Iran shows North Korea's leader what happens when you strike a nuclear agreement with the United States if we're willing to walk away. And so, this erratic policy from, you know, being -- I would say, these bar stool threats to then, you know, showing that we can impose sanctions, it needs to be more consistent.
ACOSTA: What about this optimistic tone that you heard from the president today that the Chinese are finally on board with all of this? Do you buy that?
SWALWELL: They haven't been in the past. But I believe that, you know, with hard work and, you know, back-channel relationships, that you can get them on board. It was actually that type of work that the Obama administration put in place years before the Iran agreement happened. We had worked with other countries to make sure that they were also putting bilateral sanctions on Iran. And that's what brought Iran to the table.
ACOSTA: And what about the president saying earlier today when asked whether he would sit down with Kim Jong-un, he's still not brushing aside that idea. He said, why not?
So why not? Should the president and Kim Jong-un sit down together? And what would that look like, do you think?
SWALWELL: Yes, again, it shows just an erratic policy toward North Korea. I do believe diplomatic solutions need to be pursued. But the president, you know, Monday morning will say that we're going to obliterate North Korea and Tuesday say he's willing to sit down with them.
If you're the North Korean leader, no matter how much you, you know, want to be relevant, you're probably not going to sit down with the guy that just threatened to wipe out your country.
ACOSTA: And do you think there would need to be preconditions?
SWALWELL: You know, that's always been the case. And I'm open, you know, to doing anything to denuclearize North Korea. And so they would have to show us that they're serious. Perhaps, you know, demonstrate a lapse in testing or, you know, some sort of timeout, that would be helpful. And a show of good faith.
ACOSTA: And is there a danger in putting Kim Jong-un on the same level as the president of the United States and some sort of bilateral discussion where the cameras are out there and so on?
SWALWELL: It's like...
ACOSTA: The president casually says -- what was that?
SWALWELL: It looks like a reality show if you do something like that. And the way the president talks right now, he's already putting himself, reducing the presidency to the same stage as the North Korean leader.
ACOSTA: Do you think he gets any credit though with the way -- I mean, he started off with that sort of "fire and fury" rhetoric that we heard at the United Nations. And then he sort of did what a lot of presidents do when dealing with rogue regimes. He went to his presidential tool chest and pulled out sanctions. I mean, that is what a president of the United States would do whether it was Barack Obama or George W. Bush and so on.
I don't think he gets credit if he took the match, he lit the fuse, and then right before it hit the dynamite, he extinguished it and said, "See, I just saved everyone from disaster with North Korea." And so no, I think he should have pursued sanctions in the first place.
ACOSTA: OK. Congressman, we to want hang on here for just a second . We're going to take a quick break. When we come back. We want to talk about the startling announce that time we heard earlier today from Facebook. The CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying that his company, the social network, is going to be cooperating with Congress on these ads that were apparently bought by Russians during the presidential campaign. I know the congressman has a lot to say about that. We'll have more on that when we come back.
ACOSTA: We're back with Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee. We want to talk to him about the breaking news. Facebook now says it will share information with Congress about Russian ads influencing the presidential election.
But first, let's get the latest from CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.
[17:20:04] Manu, interesting. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just this afternoon -- we saw this -- went live on the social network to make this pretty startling announcement.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. In fact 3,000 ads that it says it has found, Facebook, Russian-linked ads that will now be turned over to congressional committees investigating Russia, Russia's meddling and any collusion that may have occurred with the Trump campaign.
Now this came, Jim, after Facebook had said earlier this summer that there was no evidence that there were any Russia-linked accounts, or any Russian actors who had purchased ads on their site, but they did disclose that earlier this month, saying that, in fact, they learned that there were some Russian-linked accounts, but they did not hand those ads over to the key congressional committees. They got a lot of backlash, including from the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee telling me, Jim, he's planning to bring them forward to a public hearing next month.
But under this pressure, Facebook came forward today and said it would, indeed, disclose this information to Congress. Here's how Mark Zuckerberg described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We've been investigating this for many months now, and for a while, we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russian -- linked to Russia running ads. When we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress. And this morning, I directed our team to provide the ads we found to Congress, as well.
We will continue our own investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government on it. We're looking to foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns to further our own understanding of how they used all of our tools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And another change announced by Zuckerberg was the decision to actually move forward with more transparency about who's actually purchasing political ads on Facebook in the future. As you know on television, it needs to say who is paying for those ads, but not necessarily on these social media sites. But that's something that Facebook says it plans to roll out in the coming weeks and months.
Other social media sites, Jim, undoubtedly will face pressure as well. Twitter especially, Twitter coming representatives from Twitter coming before the Senate Intelligence Committee staff in a classified setting next week to talk about the Russia issue, as well, Jim.
ACOSTA: It sounds like we're just at the tip of the social media iceberg. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Let's get back to Congressman Swalwell. Would you like to see hearings on this? Because this sounds so big in scope and something that the general public is just so unaware of. Just from a public awareness campaign, you would to want have hearings on something like this.
SWALWELL: Absolutely. We know that Russia attacked us. We know that they weaponized social media. It would be very helpful for the American voter to know just how foreign adversaries conduct these types of campaigns, what they did in this last election. And maybe we'll go to the next election in 2018 for the midterms or the presidential in 2020 just more aware and more able to really discern the fake news that was being disseminated.
ACOSTA: And, how do we send the message to Russia to stay the hell out of our elections?
SWALWELL: Unity. Right now we see...
ACOSTA: There isn't much of that. So what else can you do? It seems like you need to do more than be unified here.
SWALWELL: It takes the commander in chief to fully acknowledge that this attack occurred. It takes unity in Congress. Just as we did after September 11. We had an independent commission. I wrote legislation with Elijah Cummings to do that and bring together our best and brightest minds to understand how we're still vulnerable, look at whether people in the Trump campaign worked with the Russians, but most importantly, put in place reforms so this never happens again.
Some of those reforms could be devoting federal resources to protecting state and county elections, but also, just having the American people better understand what Russia did.
Facebook's release today, if we're able to really look at the ads and, you know, analyze them, that will be helpful. And hopefully other companies will come forward.
ACOSTA: And what about Facebook's responsibility in all of this? Because it seems to me that there is a corporate responsibility here and knowing what you're doing and knowing the ads that you're selling on your website. What more can you tell us about should Facebook have known about this?
Were they, were they receiving, you know, ad buys from Russian individuals that they should have clearly said, "OK, these are Russians attempting to purchase items on our website that would have potentially had an influence on the election"?
SWALWELL: Right, and Russia used our greatest strength as a country, free speech, against us. And turned it into a weakness. And so I think we all were naive as to what Russia could do.
But now that we know, whether it's Facebook or Congress or just the American public, we have to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen again.
I also want to go and look at the ads that Facebook turns over -- and hopefully, we have the resources in Congress to do this -- and see if there were duplicate ads not funded by these Russian sources, but funded by other sources. That would tell us a lot if there was a coordinated campaign by the Trump campaign with Russia. [17:25:11] ACOSTA: Do you think Facebook should have seen there was
some Russian funding going into some of these ads? Is that something that we know about at this point?
SWALWELL: Again, I think now that they know, going forward we have to expect that they and Twitter and Google and others, you know, are more mindful about it and, you know, being respectful of free speech, but not allowing foreign adversaries to take over our life.
ACOSTA: And you said earlier that you'd like to see hearings on all this. Should Mark Zuckerberg come up to Capitol Hill and testify publicly about this?
SWALWELL: I think it'd be helpful to hear from him. I hope that we could sort something like that out in a voluntary way. Because again, I know if he went to the length of having a Facebook Live post today, he understands the problem, and he and his employees have an interest in being a part of the solution. Unity, at companies, in Congress, at the White House. That's the best way to defend against this.
ACOSTA: That's in short supply these days. We'll hope for the best. All right, Congressman. Thank you very much.
SWALWELL: All right.
ACOSTA: Still ahead, the debate over the Republicans' last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare plays out on late-night television instead of in the halls of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC'S "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": I'm not going to attack Lindsey Graham for two reasons: No. 1, he's one of the few Republicans who stands up to Donald Trump.
And No. 2, Lindsey Graham happens to look a lot like my Grandma Jane. Who is now deceased.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:31:07] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's Facebook live. We're following multiple breaking stories including Mark Zuckerberg this afternoon announcing Facebook is giving Congressional investigators the content and related information about thousands of ads sold to Russian-linked accounts during the last elections. Zuckerberg says Facebook already shared this information with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Let's bring in our political and legal specialists. Rebecca, let me start with you. I mean, this is -- this is incredible. I mean, every day, we keep saying this over and over again, a new shoe drops, but this is Mark Zuckerberg's shoe. You know, I mean, it's just getting bigger and bigger. And I remember during the election, you would talk to your friends, people you went to high school with, and people are constantly sharing these stories, these things on Facebook, they would come with these cockamamie, you know, Web sites --
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
ACOSTA: We just had no idea, but now we're starting to understand what we're up against.
BERG: Right. So, another piece of the puzzle filled in with this new information, Jim. And just another data point for people at home who are trying to understand just how broad this effort was by Russia to influence the election. But, still, in spite of all the evidence that has piled up over the past months regarding Russia's attempted interference in the election, still if you look at the polling on this, for example, an NBC News poll earlier this morning, the tracking on this, it tracks almost exactly with people who support Trump versus people who do not support President Trump. It's become a political issue.
And so, something like 50 percent of people do believe Russia did attempt to interfere in the election, 35 percent don't think they did, even with all the evidence that has piled up. That's why you see lawmakers and Congress trying to air all of this in public with their investigations, why you see them trying to have this public discussion to reinforce that this actually did happen and it needs to be brought --
ACOSTA: It boils down for me because why is this so important? Why should -- I mean, Rebecca was just talking about this, people who support Trump, they don't think there's anything to this, people who do and so on. There's this divide over whether it matters or not. This -- everybody's on Facebook.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. You bet. Well, let's start with one thing that can be true that Trump supporters seem to think can't be in the presence seems they can't be. It can be true that Russia aggressively sought to interfere in the election on behalf of Donald Trump and Donald Trump won.
Those two things don't -- you can believe both of those things and believe Donald Trump is rightfully the President of the United States. Donald Trump seems to think if you accept premise A, which is Russia sought to interfere in the election, therefore he is not a legitimate President in some meaningful way, in the same way, he thought, well, if I don't have the biggest inauguration crowd ever, you're still the President, right? That doesn't take away.
To your point, I think Rebecca hits it. It speaks to the breadth of the efforts here. I feel like every couple days we learn more about the breadth, whether it's via the information we've learned about Paul Manafort, the information we've learned about Mike Flynn, the information we learned yesterday about Bob Mueller and what he's asked Donald Trump for. And we were talking off air, but my guess, and I think it's more than a guess, a pretty strong suspicion is even this 3,000 ads from a -- you know, a troll farm essentially in Russia is probably still the tip of the iceberg. It just feels as though we're sort of the reveal is slow, but every time you reveal it, you -- what you realize is, it's a heck a lot bigger, the whole picture than you thought.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And there are really two parts to Facebook's role in all of this. One thing is who paid for the ads, which of course, Facebook probably should not have that much trouble figuring out. The other part is who told Facebook how to target the ads? You know, what was the procedure and who were the people involved in targeting the ads to certain groups? There were certain African-Americans were targeted to try to suppress turnout, to talk about Hillary Clinton and super predators and her comments in the 90s, that is -- was important in the Presidential election and Facebook for a long time their attitude was, we have nothing to do with this, we just take the money. We had -- we were just a conveyor belt, we're like the phone company, we don't have any responsibility for content. Mark Zuckerberg today recognized that they have a lot of responsibility and that they do have to establish some control over their advertising.
[17:35:36] ACOSTA: Is it a question of what did Facebook know and when did they know it? Is it --
TOOBIN: I -- you know, to quote Howard Baker and Watergate, yes, I think that's part of the problem. And also, you know, to use another Watergate reference, it's follow the money. Who paid for these ads?
ACOSTA: Or the rubles.
TOOBIN: Yes. Or the rubles.
CILLIZZA: To Jeff's point and you mentioned this too, is the pervasiveness of Facebook makes it a very effective tool and a difficult to track tool. You know, political campaigns are not the business world, they're usually about five to 10 years behind where the business world is. I mean, I was still rapping it out on my Blackberry when everyone had an iPhone, right?
So, I think you're seeing that the sophistication through which social media was used to do these sorts of things ran far in advance of -- I'll speak for myself, as a political reporter, my knowledge of how this could be done, and that is the scary part as it relates to American democracy. This happened, and it's, you know, September of 2017 and we're just now getting sort of a peek of what I do think is the beginnings of this whole thing.
ACOSTA: Yes, when Facebook became uncool, you know, to the kids because our parents were on it and stuff like that. But that goes to the scope of the problem. I mean, everybody's on it, and so everybody's exposed to this. All right. Sit tight, we're going to get back to that story and others when we come right back. But also, we want to talk about health care and the influence that Jimmy Kimmel, the late-night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel is having on the health care debate. We'll be right back.
[17:41:42] ACOSTA: All right. We're back with our political and legal specialists. Let's talk now about health care and sort of, I guess, one of the more remarkable aspects of that this week, and that is Jimmy Kimmel seems to be driving the health care debate from Los Angeles, not here in Washington, D.C., and he's been making some extremely pointed comments on late night television over on ABC about Senator Cassidy and even Senator Graham. Let's play a little bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!: Oh, I get, I don't understand because I'm a talk show host, right? Well, and then help me out, which part don't I understand? Is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having preexisting conditions?
Maybe I don't understand the part of your bill which federal funding disappears completely after 2026, or maybe it was the part where the plans are no longer required to pay for essential health benefits like maternity care or pediatric visits, or the part where the American (INAUDIBLE) Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Americans Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, lung association, arthritis foundation, cystic fibrosis, ALS, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the March of Dimes, among many others all vehemently oppose your bill? Which part of that am I not understanding?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Pretty remarkable. And we should point out that Jimmy Kimmel, his son was born with a congenital heart defect, and so he has felt this very personally, this health care debate. Rebecca, let me ask you, what's your reaction to this? Does this move Republicans in any way when somebody like Jimmy Kimmel goes on late night television and does this, or does it push -- does it rally them?
BERG: I'm not sure it would rally them, Jim, but it certainly doesn't move Republicans. I mean, this is no doubt about it, an emotional argument that Jimmy Kimmel is making, obviously getting a lot of attention for it, but he is not speaking to Republican voters. And that is who Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the Senate are hearing from, and that's why they restarted this debate in the first place. We all thought health care was dead and gone and over with, and they went home for August recess, heard from their constituents who were still worried about this issue, couldn't understand why Republicans had promised them that they would repeal Obamacare for years and then didn't do it when they finally had the ability to do so in terms of their governing majority. And so those are the people that are driving this debate for Republicans, but it does matter ultimately for Republicans, this debate on the other side.
TOOBIN: But I have to say, I'm not sure it's emotional at all. I think one of the things Jimmy Kimmel has done, unlike us, is he's focusing on the substance of the law. You know --
ACOSTA: Preexisting conditions.
TOOBIN: Yes, we're very good about talking about which way will Murkowski vote and John McCain, he's talking about, will you be able to get insurance if you have preexisting conditions? And the answer today, under the Affordable Care Act is, yes, you can. The answer in -- if this bill passes is, well, maybe if your state passes a law that protects preexisting conditions, maybe yes, maybe no. That's significant, and that's a real contribution. He's talking about the fact of the law rather than the politics.
ACOSTA: And we should point out, we're going to have a segment coming up where we're going to talk about some of this. But, Chris, is a preexisting condition now going to be which state you live in?
[17:45:10] CILLIZZA: Honestly, yes, based on the current version of the bill. Remember, what they are doing on this is a very Republican, conservative thing to do. They are saying, the federal government is not the place that they should live, they should live in the states. So, what that means is, you're going to have in some ways, 50 different health care fights, laws, rules, because if this goes through, I'm on the skeptical end, but let's say it goes through, the state gets the money and they decide what to do with it. There are pros for that, the cons for it is, of course, is you can't -- if you're Bill Cassidy, you simply cannot guarantee that preexisting conditions will be covered and that the people with them will be able to buy into the system. You can't do it. Because what you're doing is giving the flexibility. So, Kimmel is right, candidly, about that.
Bill Cassidy is essentially doing what every bill sponsor ever does which is look at the rosiest possible scenario for their bill and say, excuse me, this is the one that's most likely to happen. I think it's probably somewhere in the middle and I think it tilts towards the Kimmel version rather than -- because our insurance companies are going to say, you know what, we're not going to raise premiums, we're not going to do this stuff, we're just going to eat those fees, but they're probably not.
ACOSTA: Yes. And I also think you can't write off what Jimmy Kimmel is saying and say, well, where there goes the Hollywood left again.
CILLIZZA: That's ridiculous.
ACOSTA: You know, this is somebody who feels this very personally and has -- I think added admirably to this debate. Yes, Jeff.
CILLIZZA: And people get -- well, just because you're a celebrity, it doesn't mean you don't -- you don't get to have an opinion. And you get to have a shelved off as well, that's just --
BERG: By the way, our current -- our current President was a celebrity (INAUDIBLE) and now he's President, so --
ACOSTA: He was a celebrity, too. Yes. Good point. Very good point. All right. Thank you very much, everybody. We're getting more on one of this evening's breaking stories next. A closer look at President Trump's plan for expanded U.S. sanctions aimed at North Korea. Can Kim Jong-un, the "Rocket Man" as President Trump calls him, get them -- get around them? We'll find out.
[17:51:38] ACOSTA: We're following multiple breaking stories, including President Trump's announcement that the U.S. will expand sanctions aimed at North Korea but Kim Jong-un's regime has a history of getting around international efforts to cripple its economy or slow his missile and nuclear weapons programs. CNN's Brian Todd has a look at that. Brian, what is the U.S. doing and will it work, that's the question?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the Trump administration is giving the Treasury Department more power to go after companies, banks, and individuals that do businesses with North Korea. But tonight, we're told by analysts who track this closely, that Kim Jong- un's web of elicit sanctions-busting operations will likely ensure that the dictator's weapons program is going to keep charging full speed ahead.
TODD: The regime that compared Donald Trump's threats to a barking dog, tonight, may soon feel his bite. In an effort to put the squeeze on Kim Jong-un, the President today unleashed new tools for the U.S. to block North Korea's finances, hoping to get the aggressive young leader to stop building his nuclear and missile programs.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime.
TODD: The President is going after those others by giving the Treasury Department more authority to sanctions banks, companies, and individuals doing business with North Korea.
ANDREA BERGER, SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Potentially, we could see some heavy-hitting sanctions on foreign companies coming in the very near future.
TODD: But completely cutting off Kim's cash stream for his weapons will be very difficult. Analysts say the dictator and his cronies are creative and deceptive in getting around sanctions.
MARCUS NOLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & DIRECTOR OF STUDIES AT PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: One of the way they skirt sanctions is by setting up front companies.
TODD: Just one example of those alleged front companies, CNN has learned, is called Glocom. U.N. investigators say the company which sells military gear like this seized communications equipment is listed as being based in Malaysia, but the U.N. says it's really linked to North Korea's spy agency. They say a company like Glocom is hard to catch because it acts like a chameleon.
BERGER: If it's operating in Vietnam, it will try to look Vietnamese. If it's operating in Malaysia, it will try to look Malaysian.
TODD: Another alleged deception from Pyongyang and its partners, shady shipping. The Treasury Department last week said it believe some ship like this one it tracked from China turned off their transponders when they passed North Korea to hide the fact that they divert there to pick up coal purchased from Kim's regime. North Korea also sells weapons overseas, illegally, like this intercepted shipment including 30,000 North Korean rocket-propelled grenades hidden under a load of iron ore. And experts say Kim's regime partners with criminal networks in China and even in the U.S. to smuggle counterfeit goods.
BERGER: It's been known to counterfeit pharmaceuticals and cigarettes and even engage in the trade of illegal wildlife products.
TODD: Analysts say the money Kim makes each year from illicit businesses that skirts sanctions is staggering.
NOLAND: If you combine arms, counterfeiting, drug trafficking and so on, you're in a figure that's over a billion dollars and in a country that only exports about 3 billion a year, that's a very substantial source of revenue.
TODD: Analysts say the bottom line is that none of these sanctions are likely to get Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear and missile programs. They say what they may do, if the sanctions squeezed Kim tightly enough, economically, is get him to the negotiating table with his rivals. But he's only going to do that if the loopholes in these sanctions are completely closed up and the sanctions are really enforced against North Korea. And Jim, China, there's never any guarantee that China is going to help enforce those sanctions.
[17:55:15] ACOSTA: And that is a key in all of this. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Breaking news next, Hurricane Maria is closing in on more Caribbean Islands after laying waste to Puerto Rico. Tonight, we're getting a new sense of the devastation the storm is unleashing.
ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news, millions suffering. We're getting dire new accounts of the devastation from Hurricane Maria. And a grim forecast of how long Puerto Rico will be powerless. Tonight, Maria is picking up steam and aiming at new targets.
Bark or bite?