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N. Koran Foreign Minister Accuses Trump or Declaring War; White House Announces New Restrictions on Travel to U.S.; Obamacare Overhaul Hanging by a Thread; Puerto Rico Dam on Brink of Collapse. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:12] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news on the escalating tension with North Korea. Escalating once more. Its former -- its foreign minister accused President Trump of declaring war against the nation. Also, is now warning of counter measures.

CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is joining me with details.

This is just coming in, Michelle. What does this all mean?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Lest you thought the juvenile name calling and threats of destruction on both sides between the U.S. and North Korea couldn't get any worse, now there's this. So the foreign minister just now, in New York, where he still is after the U.N. General Assembly, is responding to a tweet from President Trump over the weekend. This is before the North Korean foreign minister gave his speech at the U.N. The Trump tweet said, "Just heard foreign minister of North Korea speak at the U.N. If he echoes thoughts of little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer."

Now the foreign minister is calling that tweet a declaration of war and saying this now gives North Korea the right basically to shoot down U.S. bombers, even if they are outside the air space of North Korea. He ended his statement by saying, "The question of who won't be around much longer will be answered then."

So, obviously, we've been seeing this escalation in rhetoric. This according to the North Korean foreign minister is a declaration of war based on the latest tweet -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: From "fire and fury" and "Rocket Man" and now "declaration of war," what could be next?

Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much. Watching this closely.

Coming up for us, over to Capitol Hill. The Republican health care plan Hail Mary is in serious jeopardy right now. There are two firm nos on the Republican side and, obviously, as we well know, the math is tight. There's also a handful of Republicans still on the fence. What is going to decide this once and for all? The clock is running out.


[11:36:20] BOLDUAN: You could call it travel ban 3.0 at this point. The White House announcing new restrictions on travel to the U.S. from certain countries. The new rules add countries to the list and, like earlier versions, there's no expiration date for this ban. And it includes some non-Muslim majority countries, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela are added. And added that Sudan has been taken off the list.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joining me with the details.

At this point, we're now at a third go at this. Why a third go at this? What is really different this time, Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The administration says that this was their plan all along. And really, Kate, this is a permanent ban to replace the temporary one that we saw over the summer.

So it begins on October 18th and does affect eight countries this time around, Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. And in countries like North Korea and Syria, it is an all-out ban. In others, only certain categories of travelers are restricted. For example, out of Venezuela, certain government officials and their families are banned.

Homeland Security acting secretary, Elaine Duke, has called this version of the ban tailored to protect the United States. President Trump tweeting in part overnight saying, "We will not admit those into our country that we cannot vet safely."

But many civil rights groups are calling foul. One going so far to say this is part of the administration's, quote, "ugly white supremacist agenda." Very strong words.

Kate, the White House is explaining these countries were chosen as part of a nearly two-month long review because they don't meet security standards when they're screening travelers. And the administration also said that this isn't a Muslim ban. They're pointing to the fact that North Korea and Venezuela are on this list. But of course, there will certainly be legal challenges to this. In fact, the Supreme Court, it will hear arguments on October 10th, although those will largely focus on the legality of the last travel ban. The Justice Department encouraging the justices to also consider this new ban.

So really a lot going on here. This will be a permanent ban. It goes into effect October 18th. The restrictions, as I mentioned, they vary country by country. It's important to note, Kate, people with valid visas or green cards from those eight affected countries will still be allowed into this country -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: More confusion. But maybe there needs to be more clarity and, who knows, more guidelines.

SCHNEIDER: Hopefully, soon.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

Thank you so much, Jessica. Appreciate it.

Joining me to discuss is Michael Moore, a former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. And Ken Cuccinelli is here, a CNN legal commentator and former attorney general of Virginia.

Michael, with all that Jessica laid out very well here, it seems, you're looking at it from the outside looking in, more confusing than less. Do you see legal challenges coming to this now permanent version of the temporary ban?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: I'm sure there are going to be legal challenges and probably well placed. And I imagine the Supreme Court will likely address some of the issues in mid-October when they have hearings and arguments on the case.

Really by adding North Korea and some other places there aren't many travelers from North Korea coming into the United States so I can't believe I'm actually going to quote Sara Palin, but this may be like putting lipstick on a pig to change it from it being a Muslim ban. So there will be people who look at it and say well, we're not really excluding Muslims because we've added the other countries. I don't know if, at the end of the day, that will bear out.

The statute clearly gives the president authority, in a nondiscriminatory way, to implement programs that are protective of the immigration process and the national security of the country.

What it does not allow him to do, as we've talked, about before is to basically have a religious litmus test out there that would ban people who practice their faith in a certain way.

So I think you're likely to hear the president and the administration arguing, well, this is no Muslim ban because we've got non-Muslim countries on there. But at the end of the day, I think that will be a question for the court. And this is going to be a situation where his words his inflammatory words and things he said during the campaign are likely to haunt him.

[11:40:29] BOLDUAN: And, Ken, just on the point that Michael brought up, adding North Korea to the list, I haven't seen any official numbers, but I mean could it be maybe like a handful of North Koreans travel to the United States each year? Does this -- I don't know, does this put this order, or where the conversation will be about when the court takes it up, I mean, at risk of being viewed once again as purely political?

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: As a -- as a legal matter, it does expand the scope and nature of the countries on the list. And people can debate exactly the point you just made and Michael made as well, about the amount of travelers there. And from Venezuela it focuses on government officials who, frankly, have, you know, been making threats in the direction of America as a way of rallying their own people. So there's no surprise there. But also, coming off the previous, the temporary list is Iraq, interestingly enough. And I want to say Sudan, and those --


BOLDUAN: Yes. Sudan, Iraq was taken off --


BOLDUAN: That's what's so confusing. Iraq, I believe, was taken off in the second go around and then Sudan was just taken off for this third go around. That's again, this adds to the confusion. Keep going.

CUCCINELLI: Right. Those are -- well, but it's only confusion on the outside. If you're somebody at the State Department, who has to deal with these rules, it's not that confusing really. The -- and if you're a family member in this country and you wonder, gosh, is my home country covered, it's pretty easy to figure out. It's not confusing in that sense.

But what I expect to have happened, over time, to move Iraq off the list and to move Sudan off the list, is they got some level of cooperation from those governments. And while I guess I'm not surprised about Iraq, Sudan surprised me. So that's a real -- either it's a step forward in cooperation with that country, one that, you know, we don't have a great history with, or it's -- it's going to put it on a path to being on this list later.

But for now, it looks like this list has been adjusted in a way that is likely defensible. And I agree with Michael you'll likely hear discussion of this before the Supreme Court in about three weeks. And we're going to learn more but only through questions from the justices at that time. Really, we're not going to know their view of this and the likelihood of its survivability until we see that order issued, if they're even willing to take it up. They may view it as moot at this point.

BOLDUAN: That is a key question.

Michael, had this been travel ban 1.0, would there have been such a problem?

MOORE: You know, maybe by including some non-Muslim countries at the outset and having a clearer explanation about current green card and visa holders, that may have eliminated some of the issues.

What you're really left with at the end of the day, if this is our permanent ban, is we still don't have the country, Saudi Arabia on there, who had probably the largest number of documented terrorists we can talk about, in the last known years from 9/11, but they're not on the list. The Russians are not on the list.

BOLDUAN: Or where when we talk about the home nation of where we've seen the terror attacks come from, since President Trump has taken office, that's been the question of, are you going to be adding France to the list? Are you adding Belgium to the list, the U.K. to the list? That seems to be a no.

MOORE: And we don't have Russia on the list, and they, by all accounts, have been involved in the largest cyberattack on the country into the recent past. They've been invited into the Oval Office. You see there's political motivation. And it's likely they're going to be an argument that Trump's playing to his base, just trying to follow through on a lot of the campaign rhetoric. But, again, he does have the authority under the statute to implement nondiscriminatory travel restrictions. The question is, this final conglomeration we've gotten to, will that be considered nondiscriminatory.

BOLDUAN: Stand by to stand by, is the only thing I can say on this one.


BOLDUAN: Michael, Ken, great to see you.

CUCCINELLI: Look at the -- all right.

MOORE: Good to see you, too.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

CUCCINELLI: Thanks so much.

[11:44:41] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the cries for help growing louder coming out of Puerto Rico as the governor is issuing another warning saying a major dam there is on the verge of collapse.

Plus, east coast of the United States is now bracing for something of an impact as Hurricane Maria continues to churn in the Atlantic. An update on that next.


BOLDUAN: The Hail Mary to overhaul Obamacare hanging by a thread right now. This afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee will be holding a hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill. The bill, though, is still changing, adding sweeteners over the weekend to try to get some undecided Senators on board. See the leaning nos? They want them to lean more yes.

The majority is up against a deadline or they lose their chance to pass anything with a simple 50-vote majority this weekend. So does their seven-year promise to repeal and replace expire with it?

CNN national politics reporter, M.J. Lee, is following all the twists and turns, and there've been quite a bit. She's here with the latest.

M.J., where is this headed this week?

[11:49:44] M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Kate, I wish I had a perfect answer for you. I wish I could lay out exactly what we'll see happen in the next couple days. The truth is I don't know the apps to that, and neither does Senate leadership. We don't even know if there will be a vote later this week on this revised bill. And that is because Mitch McConnell currently does not have the votes. He doesn't know if he has the 50 yes votes that he needs.

And keep in mind, that graphic you just put up is a stark reminder of just how difficult this is going to be for him. Two Senate Republicans who have come out to say they are a no. It is not very likely they will change their minds. I was in touch with Rand Paul's aide earlier today and the revisions that were released last night, that does nothing to bring him on board. He's still a no. And that's kind of obvious and expected. What Rand Paul is asking for is the subsidies that get turned into block grants. He doesn't like that and that is the basis of this bill. And John McCain has raised the process of trying to move this bill through the Senate. He wants regular order and the lack of regular order hasn't changed, either.

So what we're waiting for today is the CBO analysis, and I want to just be emphatic that this is not going to be a full score. There is not going to be a ton of information, just a little information on what it does to federal deficits. This, of course s, is important because of the vehicle that Senate Republicans are currently using. Other than that, no coverage numbers, no real information on sort of the impact of this bill.


LEE: So given its lack of information, Senate Republicans are going to have to make up their mind in the next couple days whether they can support this bill.

BOLDUAN: At the very same time, there are new poll numbers about this Graham-Cassidy plan. 27 percent of Americans like the plan, 52 percent don't. Less than half of Republicans like the plan right now, 46 percent. What do Republican lawmakers do with this?

LEE: I think every Republican on Capitol Hill, they're fully aware this is not a popular proposal. They get that the public is aware of --


BOLDUAN: If it were different, this would be a lot easier, right?

LEE: Yes, exactly. I think they're aware of the constituents, the Republicans. They see the headlines on preexisting conditions. They see the headlines on reduced funding for a lot of states. This is a moment of truth for a lot of Republicans, having to decide between an imperfect bill and sort of the campaign promise they've been making for years. And I think that's a tough choice for a lot of Republicans who have to make up their mind in a couple days.

BOLDUAN: That's the choice they'll be facing. It doesn't look like that will be changing any time soon.

M.J., thank you so much. Programing note for all of you. A special CNN event tonight at 9:00 eastern. Senators Graham and Cassidy, the ones with their names on this bill, they face off live with Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar over the future of health care and this Graham-Cassidy bill. That is tonight, 9:00 eastern, only on CNN.

Also this, we're keeping a close eye on. It is only five days since Hurricane Maria slammed ashore in Puerto Rico. The images just devastating. The entire island, the entire U.S. territory is still in the dark. Food and water is running out for a lot of people. And a major dam is on the brink of failure. That is an additional new warning. The National Weather Service warns of its imminent breach, and it could trigger life-threatening flash flooding, exactly what they do not need to be dealing with right now.

CNN's senior Latin-American affairs editor, Rafael Romo, is live in Puerto Rico right now.

Rafael, what are you seeing there now?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN-AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Kate, it is, indeed, a very dire situation as you described. And the dam breaking on the western side of the island is one of the major concerns for authorities. I interviewed the Puerto Rico governor and he told me indeed the walls have broken and it's releasing water already. Just to give you an idea, the dam is not too far from two communities where about 70,000 people live. The governor was telling me that already hundreds of people have been evacuated, some of them forcibly, because they didn't want to leave their homes. But it is a very, very difficult situation right now, indeed.

Also, the governor was telling me that they have had incidents of looting, specifically in a town called Cialas (ph) and elsewhere on the island. But he said they have activated more than 4,000 members of the U.S. Army Reserve to help local law enforcement here to take control of the situation.

Kate, also I want to mention that there are hundreds of U.S. government employees helping here with the efforts from different agencies, from FEMA, also members of the National Guard from at least two different states, but the reality is that Puerto Rico hadn't faced a catastrophe like this one in about a century, according to the governor. And main portions of the island remain without power. Water is still a problem. Communications are a problem. The governor himself was telling me that it took him two days to be able to communicate with his parents. So that gives you an idea of the kind of problems people here are experiencing -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Just unbelievable, Rafael. And is there any estimation of when they're going to get the power back on?

[11:55:03] ROMO: The main focus right now is trying to distribute fuel because a lot of the power plants here are operated by fuel. And so the roads are not in great condition and that has been a challenge -- Kate? BOLDUAN: It is everything. The roads are impassable. There is no

power. Water and food becoming scarce. That is why the need is so immense and getting greater by the day.

Rafael, thank you so much.

Still ahead, President Trump, he is not backing down from his criticism of the NFL. Even the president's biggest supporters in the league, they're standing up, locking arms, and pushing back against his comments on Friday. Where does this go from here? Does the president back down? What does the NFL do next? That's ahead.