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McCain To Vote No, GOP Health Bill One Vote From Falling; Amid Trump-Insults, North Korea Makes H-Bomb Threat; HHS Secretary's Use Of Privtae Jets Under Scrutiny; Trump: 'Madman' Kim 'Will Be Tested Like Never Before'; Trump Calls the Probe of Facebook Ads a Hoax. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired September 22, 2017 - 17:00   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Two thumbs down. After dooming the last Republican health care bill, Senator John McCain reveals that he's ready to vote "no" again. Is the newest GOP attempt to repeal Obamacare about to go down in flames?

[17:00:17] Gangster versus madman. President Trump hurls a new insult at North Korea dictator, their verbal battle escalating, with Kim Jong-un's rare personal statement questioning Mr. Trump's authority and sanity.

Nuclear threat. As tensions with the U.S. soar, North Korea claims it may test one of the most powerful bombs on the planet. Is it bluster or a deadly serious warning?

And calling a hoax. President Trump is once again dismissing the Russia investigation, publicly sharing his doubts about Russian ads on social media aimed on influencing the election. As Facebook turns over key evidence to investigators, why is Mr. Trump on Twitter and in denial?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: Breaking news tonight, Senator John McCain reveals that he's prepared to cast a defiant and potentially decisive vote against the newest GOP health care bill. He says he can't support the measure without any cooperation with Democrats and without a Congressional Budget Office estimate of the bill's impact. The maverick Republican likely dooming his party's efforts to repeal Obamacare for a second time.

One more "no" vote will kill the current bill. And Senator Susan Collins is expected to join McCain and Rand Paul in opposing it. But tonight, the White House says President Trump is not ready to give up. Earlier he tweeted that any GOP senator who voted 'no' would be known as the Republican who saved Obamacare.

Also tonight, the United States is on alert for any hint that North Korea might be preparing for a game-changing nuclear weapons test as Kim Jong-un and President Trump trade bellicose threats and increasingly personal insults. Mr. Trump is calling Kim a madman in a new tweet and promising the young dictator will be tested like never before.

This after said Kim accused the president of being mentally deranged, warning he would pay dearly for threatening to totally destroy North Korea.

This war of words is raising fears of a real and potentially devastating military conflict, with North Korea upping the ante by claiming it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

This hour I'll talk about those stories and more with Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Our correspondents, analysts and specialists, they're also standing by.

Let's begin with the breaking news in the health care fight. Senator John McCain announcing he won't support the Republicans' latest attempt to repeal Obamacare. CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, it does not look good for the GOP bill.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. John McCain's announcement today certainly doesn't kill the Graham-Cassidy plan outright, but it puts it on serious life support. And if you've been paying attention at all to how McCain has handled the debate over health care, his decision today should not come as a surprise.


NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, GOP hopes for a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare are fading fast. Senator John McCain, one of the key swing votes, announced he would not support the Graham- Cassidy plan. A huge setback for Republicans, who need 50 votes to pass the bill by September 30.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, McCain wrote, quote, "I cannot, in good conscience, vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried."

McCain has been upset with the health care reform process from the beginning. He foreshadowed today's move in July, during his dramatic return to the Senate floor after being diagnosed with brain cancer. He warned his colleagues then that any attempt to reform health care outside the traditional process of hearings, debate, and committee votes would fail.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues, because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.

NOBLES: He subsequently voted "no" on the GOP skinny repeal, ultimately killing the bill. Today's move, coupled with Senator Rand Paul's already-announced

opposition, means Republicans cannot afford to lose any more votes, a seemingly impossible task. Roughly a dozen GOP senators are undecided, and two in particular -- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine -- have voiced their issues with the bill.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There are many concerns that I have about the Graham Cassidy proposal. They include the fact that they make fundamental changes in the Medicaid program for the first time in more than 50 years.

NOBLES: As a result, McCain's decision was viewed by Obamacare supporters as the final blow to GOP hopes of a bipartisan repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

[17:05:02] Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who's been very critical of the Graham-Cassidy plan, tweeted his support of McCain, writing, quote, "Thank you, Senator John McCain, for being a hero, again, again, and now again."

McCain's decision is a blow to the Trump White House, which had put its weight behind the Graham-Cassidy plan. Earlier in the day the President Trump warned that those who voted against the plan would face political peril. But at this stage in McCain's career and life, he chose his instincts over political calculations, despite the fact that one of his closest friends, Lindsey Graham, coauthored the bill.

In a statement, McCain made it clear it was not an easy decision. "I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it," McCain wrote. "The bill's authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense pf what is best for the country. So am I."


NOBLES: And Lindsey Graham, the coauthor of this piece of legislation and perhaps John McCain's closest friend on Capitol Hill, said that he vows to press on in attempting to get this piece of legislation passed. He also said that McCain's decision today doesn't impact their friendship at all. He said the relationship is not based on McCain's votes but rather, he said, it's based on a respect for how he's lived his life and the person that he is -- Jim.

ACOSTA: The two amigos say they're still amigos. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

This new threat to President Trump's domestic agenda playing out as he responds to personal attack from North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. Let's go to CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones in New Jersey near the president's Bedminster golf resort.

Athena, first, any White House reaction to what Senator McCain did earlier today, dealing a very big blow to their hopes to repeal Obamacare?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. It's a big blow indeed. And a senior White House said it undeniably hurts the effort, but we are still hoping to get to 50 votes, signaling the president isn't giving up on this effort after seven years of GOP promises. This official also said the president is going to be pushing senators on this repeal effort over the weekend.

Meanwhile, we're seeing an increasingly heated war of words between two unpredictable leaders, President Trump and Kim Jong-un. Trump calling Kim "Rocket Man" and "a mad man." And Kim calling the president "a rogue," "a gangster," "a frightened dog," and "a dotard," which essentially means an old senile lunatic.


JONES (voice-over): It's an escalating war of words with no end in sight. President Trump tweeting this morning, "Kim Jong-un of North Korea, who is obviously a mad man who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before."

This after North Korea's supreme leader fired back at Trump -- the first time the regime has ever released a statement in his name -- accusing the president of being a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard." The extraordinary personal barbs coming on the heels of the president's address earlier this week to the United Nations General Assembly, where he deployed his new nickname for the North Korean dictator.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

JONES: Kim is warning that Mr. Trump would pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK.

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.

JONES: Despite the apocalyptic rhetoric, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying today the U.S. has not given up on finding a diplomatic solution.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We will continue our efforts in the diplomatic arena, but all of our military options, as the president has said, is on the table. And once we can assess the nature of this threat, the president will make a decision regarding the appropriate actions.

JONES: Amid the rising threat from North Korea...

TRUMP: Russia is fake news.

JONES: ... the president taking to Twitter to reprise his long- running complaints about the Russia probe, writing "The Russia hoax continues. Now it's ads on Facebook."

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: We will continue our own investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. JONES: The statement coming in the wake of news that Facebook will

provide more than 3,000 Russian-linked ads to congressional committees investigating 2016 election meddling.

This as Trump has his eyes focused squarely on another election: the Republican runoff for an Alabama Senate seat. The race pits the establishment choice, recent appointee Luther Strange, whom Trump also supports, against Judge Roy Moore, a conservative firebrand who is being backed by Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: And there is a God in heaven who is in this campaign.

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA: I don't think that God is just on your side. I don't think that God is just on my side. I think he's on both of our sides. I think he's on the president's side. But one thing I do know, the president is on my side.

[17:10:05] JONES: Trump tweeting this morning, "Will be in Alabama tonight. Luther Strange has gained mightily since my endorsement but will be very close. He loves Alabama, and so do I."


JONES: And we'll be closely watching the president's speech tonight to see just what kind of argument he makes for Luther Strange. And also to see if he continues to bash Kim Jong-un in what is likely to be a red-meat-filled speech in front of an enthusiastic crowd -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Plenty of fireworks tonight in Alabama, I'm sure. Athena Jones, thank you very much.

Let's turn back to North Korea and the ways President Trump is being taunted, threatened, insulted by Kim Jong-un. Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, you've done extensive reporting on Kim's regime. This statement from the leader himself, from the dictator himself, that's pretty extraordinary.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Jim. Never before have we seen a North Korean leader put his own name on a statement like this and go after another leader in such a personal and public way. Tonight, intelligence officials from Washington to Seoul are dissecting Kim Jong-un's words. And at the same time, they're assessing a threat made by his foreign minister about testing a hydrogen bomb.


TODD (voice-over): It's not just the harsh words coming out of Pyongyang about Donald Trump that are extraordinary, analysts say, but who's saying them. North Korea's vicious young tyrant, Kim Jong-un, in his own words.

SUE TERRY, FORMER CIA KOREA ANALYST: I've never seen anything like this where a North Korea leader, using his own name, speaking in first person, making it so personal.

TODD: Among the personal insults leveled by Kim at President Trump, he says Trump is unfit to lead a country, twice calls him a "dotard," meaning a senile old fool, labels him "mentally deranged," and says, "I will make him pay dearly."

Analysts believe, in order to show his countrymen and rivals that he won't back down, Kim felt he had to respond personally to the threat issued by President Trump at the U.N. this week.

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.

GARY SAMORE, FORMER NUCLEAR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: President Trump's very intemperate language gave Kim Jong-un a wonderful gift. It gave him an excuse, a pretext to claim that Trump's language convinced him of the need to continue his testing program.

TODD: Kim said as much, declaring Trump's remarks, quote, "convinced me rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct, and that is the one I have to follow to the last."

Kim also vowed to take a hardline counter-measure. Asked what his boss meant, Kim's foreign minister had a chilling response.

RI YONG HO, NORTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I think this could probably mean the strongest ever hydrogen bomb test on or above the Pacific Ocean.

TODD: U.S. officials and analysts believe the last nuclear bomb North Korea tested this month could have been a hydrogen bomb, which would be a game changer. Why? Because the blast may have been nearly ten times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which killed an estimated 150,000 people. H-bombs use the same kind of energy in the sun and are the most destructive weapons on the planet.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: You have a relatively small atomic bomb that then is used to get a much greater explosive yield from the thermonuclear material that's -- that's in this second stage.

TODD (on camera): Two bombs in one?

ALBRIGHT: That's right.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say the fact that this 30-something dictator, who's never met another world leader or even traveled outside his country while in power, likely has a hydrogen bomb, something only the five declared nuclear powers are confirmed to have, is extraordinarily.

TERRY: This is a guy who -- who has no care for the people of his country. Now this guy who is one of the most powerful nuclear weapon in the world, in this very exclusive club...


TODD: Tonight, weapons experts tell us they are skeptical that Kim Jong-un has the most advanced kind of hydrogen bomb. And they're not sure he could successfully test one right now on a missile fired into the Pacific Ocean. But they warned that he's building that capability quickly. And many believe that his next big move is likely going to be another test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could be capable of striking the U.S. mainland with a nuclear warhead -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Much to worry about, much to discuss. Let's talk more about this -- the North Korea threat and the breaking news on health care -- with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Democrat, on the Foreign Relations Committee, who is in here in the studio with us tonight.

Thanks for joining us, Senator.


ACOSTA: First let's get to health care, because it's pretty remarkable. And I just want to get your sense of this, because you've been in Congress for so long. You know Senator McCain. You know Senator Graham. They are very close friends.

How difficult do you think this was for Senator McCain, at the end of the day, to essentially torpedo his best friend's legislation?

MARKEY: Obviously, they are very close friends, and they partnered together on just about every defense issue, every foreign policy issue.

[17:15:06] But I think this is a different issue. I think this really goes to John McCain himself and what he believes is best for the country. What each American is entitled to in terms of access to health care. So I think on this one, I think he made a personal decision. I think he decided that Lindsey would have his right to have a position, but he believed that it was going to dramatically undermine the health care of millions of Americans.

ACOSTA: And it was going to be difficult for Senator McCain to vote for this piece of legislation when it hadn't gone through the process of regular order, as he's been calling for. He said this earlier in the summer. If this were not going through regular order, he couldn't support it.

Is regular order possible? I mean, I suppose it is. We've seen it happen before. It does exist in Washington from time to time. But can it happen on health care, do you think?

MARKEY: It's the only way any bill is ultimately ever going to pass. If you don't have hearings, if you don't have experts, if you don't have witnesses, if you don't have patients, doctors, nurses, insurance executives, all there testifying as to what the impacts are going to be on every American, then no legislation ultimately can pass that will be sustainable. And that's all John McCain has been saying since the beginning.

ACOSTA: But you know Republicans are going to say, "Well, that's just because Democrats, they want to stretch this process out, make it take forever so eventually, this process just goes away." That it just becomes impossible to do anything significant to change Obamacare. Fair statement?

MARKEY: Well, you know, John McCain is an institutional memory for the Senate. And he is only reflecting the way the Senate has always operated. And it's done big things on Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid, much less arms control, environment, energy, every issue.

So he's just saying it's worked in every past generation. Let's do it on health care, as well. Let's make sure that the result is what was intended.

And right now if people vote for this bill, it's buying a pig in a poke. This is like political plastic surgery that's been done on the first Trump bill. Now they're bringing it back out again with no examination as to what the impacts would be on the American people.

ACOSTA: And let's turn to North Korea, because we just heard Brian Todd's report. I mean, it is building up to this sort of doomsday nightmare scenario. Obviously, we don't want to even consider the possibilities that -- that North Korea could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific, but that is what they are threatening.

What do you make of that threat coming from the North Koreans? Do you think that that is bluster? Is everything that we've seen this week between the president and Kim Jong-un, is it all bluster? Or is there something -- something serious here that Americans should worry about?

MARKEY: I think that we should be concerned. And I think that we should be concerned that this -- this escalatory rhetoric between the leaders of two countries that have nuclear weapons is slipping very quickly into something that could become very dangerous for the planet.

And, again, if he detonates a hydrogen bomb into the atmosphere, that's why we had the atmospheric nuclear tests banned in 1963 between Khrushchev and Kennedy. When that happens, strontium-90 is carried with the winds, and it goes down into the ground, into the grass. Cows eat the grass, and it goes into the milk the children across the planet.

ACOSTA: Does U.S. have to consider -- does the U.S. have to consider a military option at that point, if North Korea carries out that threat?

MARKEY: No. There is no military option. None. If we take a strike at North Korea, it could very quickly escalate into the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of people in South Korea and in other countries in that region.

The only answer is to go to final sanctions on the North Koreans. Right now we are not cutting off the oil that goes from China into North Korea. We are not cutting off the revenues that go from slave wages into North Korea. The crypto currency, bitcoin which they are using to supply funding for their economy, all of it should be shut off. We should have a "closed for business" sign put totally on the North Korean economy. We haven't reached that point yet. We should go to final sanctions now. We should start out where we're going to be forced to wind up. That will be the message that we're sending.

And accompanying a message that we say to the North Koreans, that we want to sit down with you. We don't want to decapitate your leadership. We don't want to change your regime. We just want to put controls on your ballistic missile and hydrogen bomb program.

ACOSTA: OK. Senator Markey, stand by. We're monitoring other developments, especially in the Russia investigation. President Trump called it a hoax once again. I want to get your take on that. We'll be back after a quick break.


TRUMP: And we have to be very smart. We have to...



ACOSTA: We're back with Senator Ed Markey, and President Trump's newest attempt to cast doubt on the Russia investigation, dismissing it as a hoax. Senator Markey, I want to show this tweet that the president put out this morning. It was surprising and yet not so surprising.

The president tweeting, "The Russia hoax continues. Now it's on ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary," referring to Hillary Clinton there.

What is your response to that? The president not only referring to the Russia investigation that is happening in the special counsel's office but just the fact that Facebook wants to turn over ads to Congress to investigate this. He's calling that a hoax, too.

MARKEY: Well, the way in which people have communicated in our country has evolved. It was radio. It was television. Now it's Facebook and other websites. Well, our campaigns are dependent upon disclosure. It's the American people who have a right to know who was trying to influence our election.

[17:25:12] So anyone who buys an ad on CNN or a local TV or radio station, that's disclosed. The public can see who paid for it and then can go and check and see how much it cost.

Right now on Facebook that has not been the case. This is a very dark world that needs to have the disinfected [SIC] -- disinfectant of public light that goes in, so that people can actually understand who's buying these ads and for what purpose. And I think, ultimately, Facebook just has to be made accountable. And we're going to need laws that require that kind of disclosure in the future.

ACOSTA: And do you want to see Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg testify up on Capitol Hill as part of this process? I mean, after all, it was his website that had this flood of fake news stories and ads coming in from Russians and so on during the campaign. It, apparently, had some kind of effect. Who knows if it changed the outcome of the election, but it had an effect, I would think, on voters' attitudes.

MARKEY: I would think that, if we were going to have hearings about public disclosure of people who are buying ads on Facebook or other websites, that it would be very helpful to have Mark Zuckerberg and other Internet CEOs to come in to testify. So that there can be a new era here that we open up with regard to the funding and the information that is on the web but intended to affect our -- our elections. We've had those hearings for years with television executives and radio executives. So as this issue evolves, so, too, must the hearings that we have in Congress.

ACOSTA: And why do we not see many hearings in the Russia investigation? We just don't see many of them. The witnesses are brought in behind closed doors. They meet with the staffers. It just -- it feels like -- I mean, perhaps it would be more difficult for the president to call it a hoax if we saw hearings about this and the public were to watch these folks answer the questions about this investigation.

MARKEY: I agree with you. I think that this is a huge pinata where all of the information should be out in public display so that the American people can understand what is happening in our country with regard to our elections, what was the influence of the Russian government.

Now I understand that there are certain witnesses and -- and individual cases that necessarily, perhaps, have to be kept in secret. But I think for the the most part, there should be more public hearings. There should be more public disclosure. That's what we had during Watergate, and I think going forward we need the same kind of disclosure here.

ACOSTA: All right. Senator Ed Markey, thank you very much. We appreciate you coming in and joining us here today.

MARKEY: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Coming up, more breaking news on the GOP health care bill and the impact of Senator John McCain's stunning "no" vote -- or "no" decision on that piece of legislation. Our correspondents and analysts are working their sources. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:32:45] JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This hour is breaking news. It's pretty significant. Senator John McCain announcing he won't support the Republicans last ditch effort to repeal Obamacare. A decision that very well could doom the bills. Let's bring in our political specialist, go straight to Manu Raju. Was this unexpected, what John McCain did today?

MANU RAJU, CNN POLITICAL SPECIALIST: To some degree, yes. I mean, he obviously took a pretty good bold position in July when he came out and tanked the first effort, I guess that will be the second Republican effort to repeal Obamacare. He went on the floor of the Senate and really made that dramatic remarks that he would not support doing anything that did not go through the regular process, through the committees, hearings, try to get bipartisan support. Something that's carefully studied and vetted. But this Graham-Cassidy Bill sort of came out of left field and done quietly.

There was no full CBO, Congressional Budget Office analysis expected to be issued by the time of this vote next week. So in some ways not unexpected because this is right in line with what he's been saying all along. But of course his best friend, Lindsey Graham had been pushing this as there is thought that he could convince John McCain to go for it. But McCain did not like being pushed in this position and that's one reason why he came out and said no.

ACOSTA: And Mark Preston, I wonder if John McCain to some extent did Mitch McConnell a favor in that, he didn't have to do the thumbs down again on the floor. He just can announce it on a Friday when we go into the weekend and maybe there will be other opposition we'll see over the weekend and they won't have to get to that point and have that kind of public embarrassment. Do you think we're going to see more opposition come out this weekend? Is this -- does McCain sort of opened the flood gates somewhat?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the timing is definitely interesting, right? Because by coming out on Friday, it does give Mitch McConnell some time to think about how he would deal with the fallout over the weekend as we expect Susan Collins and Manu and our other -- our colleague Phil Mattingly are talking about perhaps Susan Collins will be announcing this, you know, as early as Sunday where she is. Now she's edging towards being a no vote. Did John McCain provide her cover in by doing so? Perhaps. But maybe John McCain making the announcement today has put more pressure on Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to be the actual no vote, that kill the bill. I don't know if we will get to that but we do know that Donald Trump has made it very clear that a no vote against this is yes vote to keep Obamacare.

[17:35:04] ACOSTA: Yes. Rebecca, I don't want to be the press aids taking those emails that are coming in and a lot of incoming. How big of a roll did Jimmy Kimmel play in all of this do you think? I was -- as we were wrapping up and I was talking to Senator Markey as he was leaving, this was not on camera, he said, you know what, he feels that did have an impact, it put a human face on this -- on this debate which is really sort of lacked that quality over the last several months.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Well, so many variables it's difficult to know for sure, of course. But there's no question that it influenced the course of the debate. And because this all happened so suddenly, most Republicans and Democrats didn't necessarily see us returning to this debate at this time, everyone sort of thought that the health care debate was gone and dead and we are moving on to tax reform. Jimmy Kimmel filled a vacuum in the debate. And really steered it before Republicans were able to wrest back control and steer the debate themselves. So no doubt, this had an impact.

ACOSTA: And I there (INAUDIBLE) kind of a larger problem that Republicans and in trying to message the health care legislation, not just on this Graham-Cassidy Bill, but what they were trying to do over the summer, you really did not see a real concerted messaging strategy about why this piece of legislation was great, why it needed to pass. There was nothing like that. There is no push from the outside to support it. In fact, the only push from the outside was to oppose it. And they made it very difficult other than to say that Obamacare is failing. That was really their only overarching message but not what this should be replaced with and why.

PRESTON: Well, you know what's interesting too about the Kimmel effect so to speak, it's really is the crashing of politics and pop culture coming together in Hollywood which different from Kimmel though and what we've seen from other Hollywood types that come out here and testify on Capitol Hill or they're going to campaign trail for Hillary Clinton. Instead Jimmy Kimmel came from nothing. He was not a wealthy person. He comes across as a very blue collar person. And he really made it clear that doesn't affect him. He has the money, he has the money to take care of his job but other people don't have the money to take care of his child. And that's why I think it was so effective because Kimmel was very authentic in what he was doing, whether you agree with him or not, he was authentic to himself and I think that conveyed that authenticity really did come across in his monologues.

ACOSTA: And Rebecca, do you think President Trump is going to be giving this speech then in Alabama tonight, do you think it's a good idea for him to go after John McCain?

BERG: Well, Donald Trump has never unnecessarily looked at the strategy when he attacks people. It's usually more of a visceral, emotional sort of reaction fighting back when he feels he has been wronged. And so we might see some of that this evening from him if he does feel that John McCain has derailed this very important measure to him. But I think it's a certainty that Donald Trump tonight will come out and say something about the status of this health care debate. Interestingly, Vice President Mike Pence was in Indiana speaking earlier today shortly after McCain made his announcement. And Pence was still talking about this in a rosy sort of way saying, you know, we're working hard to get this done, et cetera, et cetera. I think we're going to hear a bit of a different tone perhaps from the president.

ACOSTA: Mike Pence always on message, the president not so much.


BERG: But he text the message.

ACOSTA: Yes. RAJU: If the president goes after Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins and put pressure on them, we know that Lisa Murkowski in particular does not like that.

ACOSTA: Does not like that and interesting to note he went after Rand Paul in that tweet this morning. Not John McCain. Not some these (INAUDIBLE) all right. Stand by. Thank you. I want to ask about the latest (INAUDIBLE) President Trump and Kim Jong-un. That's what we'll do when we come back. And North Korea's very big threat to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.


[17:43:17] ACOSTA: We're back with our political specialists. And as for things we did see coming, the president escalated his war of words with Kim Jong-un on Twitter this morning. We show this on screen. Kim Jong-un of North Korea who is obviously a mad man who doesn't mind starving or killing his people will be tested like never before this coming day after Kim called the president rogue and gangster, a dotard which I guess was not a word that I was completely familiar with. Dotard, I keep mispronouncing it. Anyway, what do -- what do we make of this escalation? I mean, is this just sort of par for the course, Mark Preston? Or are we heading towards something that people need to worry about?

PRESTON: Well, I sure hope we're not heading towards something that people need to worry about and the unpredictability of the North Korean leader is -- I think the biggest wildcard and what concerns me the most probably concerns our intelligence officials, the most as well. I do think though from a United States standpoint trading barbs back and forth with the leader of North Korea is very ineffective. I think silence is defining in many ways. I think trying to have them keep second guessing what our military options will be at the same time adding the sanctions in and really trying to put him in a strangle hold would be a more effective way to try to get what we need, the concessions we know -- we need out of them. At the same time, really pressuring China behind the scenes to take a more leadership role in this.

ACOSTA: And Manu, when you're up on the Hill, do Senators and Congressman, they pull you aside what's the deal, what's going on with the president and Kim Jong-un? Or is this -- do people sort of regard this as the kind of bombastic stuff that the president does whether it's with, you know, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz during the campaign or Hillary Clinton after the campaign and so on?

[17:45:04] RAJU: Yes. We certainly see it that way. But there's also -- they realize there's a real fear and concern and going this route with very unpredictable leader that has nuclear weapons. Even Ted Cruz earlier this past month, I asked him about the fire and fury comments, he said that's not something necessarily that I would say. That's kind of the criticism you get from -- on Capitol Hill. But the president when he did say fire and fury, they're going to do anything else, since then, he North Korea has done dead two missiles that they fired over Japan, that was a nuclear test. Now this threat of an H- bomb being dropped on Pacific Ocean. The real concern has went on to president painted himself in a corner here and has given Kim Jong-un a excuse to move forward in a way that he may not have had otherwise.

ACOSTA: Right. And the president said in that August speech in Phoenix that while he's glad that Kim Jong-un now finally respects him, he's going to give another political speech in Alabama shortly. We'll have to see what happens there. But let me turn to another story that's caught everybody attention here in Washington. And it's remarkable how these things happen over and over again. Cabinet secretaries finding out that maybe it's not such a good idea to live high on the hog. Tom Price, the cabinet secretaries not see this one coming? I mean, why make that same mistake over and over again?

BERG: And it's worth pointing out that this case which Tom Price, HHS Secretary is a unique case. We haven't seen anything like this to this extent. He did this over and over again at great expense to taxpayers, unlike Betsy Devos at education who pays for her private jets. He was not reimbursing the government as far as we know. It's totally tone deaf. It's mind boggling really. Like, how could any politician, someone who's been in politics for much of his career think that's a good idea? Thinks that that looks good for the government.

ACOSTA: Especially when you're talking about taking away health care from -- potentially from millions of Americans. OK. Thanks very much. We'll talk more about this in the next hour. Also be sure to stay tuned in to SiriusXM Radio this weekend for a "FULL STOP WITH MARK PRESTON," that is going to be -- there he is right there. We'll stop and plug this right now. Listen at noon Eastern and tomorrow, that's at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. So tune in for that. That will be great. And coming up more on North Korea's threat to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. Can anything be done to stop it?


[17:52:18] ACOSTA: It happened again this morning. A flurry of tweets, President Trump weighed in on the Russia probe, Hillary Clinton and more, setting the stage for today's new cycle and provoking both criticism and praise tonight at 9:00 Eastern, CNN's Bill Weir host the special report, TRUMP AND TWITTER. Here's a quick preview.


BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to American adversaries in Pyongyang or Moscow, following Donald Trump on Twitter, what worries you the most?

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: If I'm the head of a hostile or even friendly intelligence service, I got a new office over here, follow that account. Tell me what this man is saying. It's tremendously revealing. We know the president's hot button. We know his vulnerabilities. We know what upsets him. We know what he demands from his subordinates (INAUDIBLE) we even know his sleep patterns based upon his Twitter usage. That's a -- that's a tremendous gift (INAUDIBLE)

WEIR: All of those things somebody like Vladimir Putin say take great pains to hide.

HAYDEN: Of course because you don't want to advantage the other guy.


ACOSTA: And Bill Weir joins us now. Bill, tell us more about this report. Mr. Trump's use of T twitter has had a huge impact on just about everything in this world these days. It's got to be hard to fit it into one hour.

WEIR: Well, yes. There are so many different strands and we start with the idea that there are so -- they seem so disposal, so ethereal, they blow through our phones and then another one comes before you can get over the outrage of the last one. And I thought what if we printed them all out and had them leather bound.

ACOSTA: Wow. Oh my goodness.

WEIR: And there you. That is -- that's not even all of them. That only goes up through about a month-and-a-half ago. These are the words and, you know, we single space, we didn't cheat this.


ACOSTA: I'd be afraid to put that on my coffee table, Bill.

WEIR: You need -- you need a double (INAUDIBLE)

ACOSTA: Reinforcements would be necessary.

WEIR: But these words will be studied in future centuries. Not only as a sign of this man, but it's a sign of our times. What was it about our culture in 2017 and this man and this message and this machine that leads to this? He's not the most popular guy on Twitter by far. Barack Obama has almost three times as many followers than the @realDonaldTrump. But everyone is a news, as you said today and this morning we started with eight, that's by far, he averages about six a day. And there are so many different words.

You heard Michael Hayden worry about so much he's giving away to foreign adversaries. There are worries that he may put himself in legal jeopardy by tweeting something that could be used against him later or maybe that his words become so meaningless that a world leader doesn't take him seriously when it is needed most. So, we examine all of those and also his supporters. Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator, huge fan, thinks he is a master manipulator and the short punchy medium of Twitter is perfect for him and his audience.

[17:55:05] ACOSTA: Bill Weir, we'll be watching later on tonight. Thank very much. Be sure to watch CNN Special Report, TWITTER AND TRUMP, it's on tonight at 9:00 Eastern. Coming up as President Trump and Kim Jong-un trade insults, North Korea threatens to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. Plus, new reaction to Senator John McCain's announcement, it's a big one that he will vote against the latest Republican plan to scrap Obamacare.


ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news, dooming repeal, Republican Senator John McCain announces he will vote against the latest GOP health care bill with a handful of his colleague's voice and serious concerns about the measure is the latest Obamacare repeal efforts (INAUDIBLE) high-stakes tweet. President Obama and Kim Jung-un engaging a personal war of words with each other calling each other --