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Trump to Decertify Iran Nuclear Deal; Trump: New Sanctions on Iran Revolutionary Guard; Trump Ends Health Subsidies for Lower-Income Families; Trump Speaks to Reporters after Iran Remarks. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired October 13, 2017 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is barred from doing weapons-related activities. And because it's signing on to the additional protocol, it's not taken up provisionally right now, and it's supposed to actually ratify it, that means it is subject permanently to inspections. If the provisions and constraints expire, Iran starts to build up and develop the potential for a nuclear arsenal, a future president will have every possibility of bringing the world together to block that, to stop that. If we are the ones now, though, who renege on this deal, who get out, any international unity we so painstakingly built up, will be gone. Iran will do exactly what it seeks to do, which is divide us from our partners in Europe, never mind the Russians, the Chinese, Japanese and others. This is a totally unnecessary action, and one that creates tremendous opportunity for a real problem to develop over the next 60 days.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: April Ryan is with us, the White House correspondent for Urban Radio Networks, a CNN political analyst as well.
This is going to play very well with the president's political base.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It will play with the president's political base. He is doubling down and doing what he talked about on the campaign trail. Wolf, I listen to what the president said and I listen to him, step by step, through history, when it comes to our relationship with Iran. But we have to remember -- and the president is right, we have a delicate relationship, tumultuous relationship with Iran. He back with the Iran hostage issue. But when we look at Iran, and I'm thinking back to Obama years, one of the reasons why this deal was made, and Christiane touched it, and we're not hearing the piece of it, the transparency issue. That deal was created because our intelligence is faulty when it comes to issues of Iran. We don't know so much. When you have these deals and all of this going on, you get a little bit more of a glimpse into what's going on. The president saying that he is fearful they could work with and in concert with North Korea and other rogue nations. We have been hearing that for decades, or at the last 20 years I have been in the White House. We've been hearing this. And at issue, if the president says, look, I don't like this and I have the authority and I can pull this and what have you, and then his own intelligence group is saying, I think we need to keep this, there is a lot to be said. And I understand doubling down on your base, but they're -- I understand the issues of sanctions. But there are real issues of security. BLINKEN: And April is exactly right. What is unique about the deal
is not just where they were spinning. It's every step along the way.
BLITZER: One of the criticisms of inspections, though, is that there can't be surprise inspections. They have to give the Iranians notification. If they want to go to a sensitive base, they can't just show up.
BLITZER: They have to give them advance notice.
BLITZER: And the certain is the Iranians can clean up the base.
BLINKEN: You're exactly right.
RYAN: They are allowing inspection.
BLINKEN: This is important. In fact, the particles that exist, when you in various places has tried to block access, not just for a day or a week or a month, but for years, for decades, precisely because it knew that if inspectors got in many years later, they could find the activities. And again, if they are blocking something, we go to the Security Council, one vote by the United States and sanctions go back in place.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: If you speak to the intel agencies about it, and I asked folks, like former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, how they keep an eye on this, and satellites can, in addition, take photos of these sites. They can sense radioactive material. And they have other ways to monitoring to make sure when they are doing that. April, you talk about Iran being, if not being a black hole, but a gray hole for U.S. intelligence, which it shares with North Korea --
RYAN: Yes. Right. Exactly.
SCIUTTO: But members of the U.S. intelligence agencies, who are on, say, the Iran desk, who have never, because of the relationship, who have never set foot on the ground, they will ask me questions because I have been there a dozen times or so. And this is one of those hard facts of a place like that where your vision is less than you certainly want.
BLITZER: Christiane, very interesting. Mark Dubowitz said he senses there has been a shift in the European attitude after the last three months, largely because of what the Trump administration is saying. You recently interviewed Emmanuel Macron the leader of France.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I did.
BLITZER: Did you get a sense from him that he wants to fix it as opposed to keeping it going?
AMANPOUR: Well, they don't want to reopen it or renegotiate it. They know it can't happen. Right now, the E.U. foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who I also interviewed during the U.N. summit in September, is speaking. Her headline is that no one country can terminate or pull out of this 2015 Iran nuclear deal. That's their position.
Of course, as I said, President Macron said, of course, they would be interested in looking at, seeing if they could extend certain clauses. But Tony Blinken just explained to you, there are decades of prohibitions on Iran as it exists right now. If it's possible to increase those, people would love it. But if it's at the risk of terminating the deal, that is a no-go. And the E.U. is not going to be party, or Russia or China to re-imposing more sanctions. So this is, potentially, if Congress decides to reimpose sanctions, going to set up an untenable conflict, political and economic conflict between the U.S. and its closest allies over sanctions.
But I want to ask you, Wolf, and I don't know whether I heard it or misheard it. You read that the Treasury has announced certain terrorism provisions under which it is going to expand sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. I don't know if you said the Trump administration is designating the IRGC as a terrorist network, but if it does, there is already response from Iran. The moderate Iranian Atomic Agency leader, Ali Salehi, who was part of these negotiations, said that if the United States does that, that is tantamount to a declaration of war against Iran --
BLITZER: And --
AMANPOUR: -- and that Iran will respond.
[13:36:13] BLITZER: Lead me read to you from the press release that the Treasury Department put out, Christiane, because it's specific today: "The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, pursuant to the global terrorism executive order, 13224, and consistent with countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act." They said that, "The activities of the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as the Taliban, the IRGC has provided material support, including providing training, personnel, military equipment."
So it certainly does sound -- let me get our Jim Sciutto to weigh in as well -- as if the Trump administration is designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, even though we were told earlier the administration would just stop short of that.
SCIUTTO: It's hard not to read the statement any other way. Of course, we'll follow with questions. But it says in so many words it is designating it. As Christiane noted, that has been preemptively interpreted -- and granted, some of this is rhetorical bluster from Iran we often hear. Asserted as a declaration of war from Iran's perspective on this. It is significant. And, again, just to be clear, the Revolutionary Guard Corps has a military function in Iran but also has an enormous financial and economic function in Iran. So these kinds of sanctions have enormous consequences.
BLITZER: Tony Blinken, you were the deputy secretary of state. How are the Iranians going to react to this?
BLAINKEN: If there's a formal designation as a terrorist organization, I think there is going to be blow back. That's exactly why the Bush administration and the Obama administration, while using other sanctions against individual members, leaders or the IRGC, resisted designating the organization.
BLITZER: If the State Department already brands Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, why should this be any different now?
BLINKEN: None of us should have any love for the IRGC and the Quds force. They do terrible things around the world on a daily basis. But in Iran, they are considered the armed forces of the regime. And they have the ability, if they want to use it, to make trouble. The question is, can you use affectively existing sanctions, which I believe we can, without sticking it in their eye publicly in a way that might actually blow up reaction and that endangers our troops. I think Mark knows something about --
BLITZER: Mark Dubowitz, go ahead.
MARK DUBOWITZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: There is so much to respond to here, I think, on every aspect of it. Let me can talk about the Revolutionary Guards. That was a statutory requirement that the Trump administration do that. That --
BLITZER: Do what?
DUBOWITZ: Designate the IRGC as terrorists.
BLITZER: Do you believe that today, the Treasury Department is designating the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps as a terrorist organization?
DUBOWITZ: They are designating it for material support for terrorism an under executive order the department already had. That was a requirement in statute passed by almost every lawmaker, Democratic and Republican, recently. So this is something that Congress has required the administration to do. They administration has followed through on that. Had a deadline of October 31st. And they have done the right thing. They designated the IRGC. Because everyone knows at this table -- and Tony is right, there are no lovers of the IRGC, I'm sure. The IRGC is responsible for all of Iran's dangerous and destruction activities. It's responsible for its nuclear program, missile program, support for the genocide in Syria, support for Hezbollah and Hamas, the missile program, and the enormous human rights oppression taking place in Iran today. So this is the right move. And it's a move that was required by a bipartisan Congress.
But I think we're missing the main message of the president's speech when we started talking about violations and inspections and we're back to the JCPOA.
RYAN: The transparency of nuclear weapons.
[13:39:45] DUBOWITZ: The fact of the matter is, the president has rolled out a comprehensive Iran policy where he said he'll use all instruments of national power to target the Iranian regime and the IRGC. That is a major pivot point in the strategy. The administration argued that the JCPOA obsession, the obsession we are seeing at the table today, has paralyzed U.S.-Iran policy. And this decertification is a necessary first step to breaking that paralysis and allowing the United States to go out and do what the United States needs to do with our allies in the gulf and our European allies and around the world, is counter Iranian aggression. The fear the Iranians would walk away from this deal is a fear that paralyzed the Obama administration. And that gave the supreme leader the ultimate black mail threat that he would walk away if we did anything. With this deal, Donald Trump said, I am prepared to walk away. You may be prepared to walk away? I can walk away before you do. That's an important first step to say, we will not be paralyzed by the JCPOA. We will work to fix the deal with our European allies. And I think you heard the short answer to Macron is, yes, I will work to fix the deal as long as you keep the deal, Mr. Trump. That's actually important. The president created a perception that he is prepared to walk away from the deal. I don't know if he is prepared to walk away or not. I wouldn't recommend we walk away. But there is a lot of fear at this table and a lot of fear in the United States and around the world that he is. That fear is motivating people to say, you know what, we may have to fix this deal, but we definitely need to end the paralysis and push back strongly against the destructive behavior. I think that's the headline on this speech.
BLINKEN: If anything, the paralysis on Iran policy, even during the Trump administration, during the Obama administration, after the deal, against were implemented across the board against vary Iranian entities for the malicious activities they're engaged in. They had been sanctions, including sanctions on the books by Congress and by this administration, until, apparently, today.
But here's what I'm concerned about. Mark is right, there's a larger strategy here that the president talked about, Iran needs to be flushed out. And it is right to try to push back and contain Iran's activities in various places that are profoundly against our interests. By creating a huge distraction, a self-inflicted distraction, by raising up again an agreement that is working, the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, that will make it harder, not easier, to get everyone focused and rallied against Iran --
BLITZER: All right, there's certainly a lot to assess, a lot of unpack. We will continue our special coverage on this.
I want to thank all of you for joining us.
But there's more breaking news we're following today as well. President Trump taking a hammer to another major item of the Obama legacy, health care. He is being accused of sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, by ending the subsidies for lower-income people. Why this change will up-end the entire insurance market, potentially.
Plus, a surprise news conference from the Las Vegas police to update the investigation into the massacre there. Serious new questions emerging about the timeline of the shooting. Live pictures from Las Vegas. We will, of course, have coverage of that. Stay with us.
[13:45:54] BLITZER: President Trump followed through on his threat to stop paying key Obamacare subsidies to insurance companies. These subsidies help nearly six million lower-income Americans afford health care coverage. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates this move will raise premiums by at least 20 percent and increase the federal deficit and cause so many to lose their health insurance. Insurers warned that ending these payments could spell the end of the Affordable Care Act.
And earlier today, while speaking at the Values Voters Summit here in Washington, President Trump made clear that's exactly what he intends to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You saw what we did yesterday with respect to health care. It's step by step by step.
TRUMP: And that was a very big step yesterday, and another big step was taken the day before yesterday, and one by one, it's going to come down and we will have great health care in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I want to go to our Congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill.
What are you hearing from Republican lawmakers, Democratic lawmakers on this latest move by the president to do away with a huge, very important part of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, when it comes to Democrats, they are unified and outraged by what occurred. They are worried and concerned about how this will undercut the market place and Obamacare on the whole. And they believe a legislative solution will have to be found in the near future, basically, saying they are going to demand it just to keep the government open before the end of the year before the December 8th spending deadline. The Republican Party is a very interesting and very different issue.
It's split, no question about it. You have moderate Republican who feel like the funding needs to continue. They recognize what it means for the marketplace. Then you have conservative Republicans who made clear, not just their opposition to Obamacare, but also these payments themselves, the payments that a court found should be made and appropriated by Congress, not the executive branch. They are found to be illegal and, therefore, should be cut off all together.
I want to read a tweet , a Florida lawmaker and a Republican, a more moderate Republican who is retiring at the end of the year. She tweeted last night, when this news broke, "Cutting health care will mean more uninsured in my district. POTUS promised more access, affordable coverage, and this does the opposite."
You have conservatives on the other side, Wolf, and that's where the split occurs. And that split will decide whether or not a legislative deal is possible. You know where the Democrats and moderate Republicans and conservatives are. The question is, where is leadership. They have said they're OK with the administration continuing these payments until repeal and replace is done. That is no longer the option. Repeal and replace, there is no near-term legislative outlook for that. They need to figure out if there is a legislative deal to be made.
There have been bipartisan talks on this There's Republicans, including key Republicans, like Senator Lamar Alexander, who have tried to work out a fix to this. The big question is, is there a way to bridge that divide between Conservative and moderates? And is there a willingness, Wolf, to reach a deal before the end of the year?
BLITZER: I know you are going to be busy on Capitol Hill, Phil, but thank you very much.
I want to bring in our CNN political analyst, David Gregory. April Ryan is still with us.
The president tweeted this, he said, "The Democrats' Obamacare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies have stopped. Dems should call me to fix."
Is he seriously interested in working with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to fix all of this?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he may be or may come to be. One of the difficulties of the terrain he is walking in is he is saying we will destroy Obamacare. The problem is, once you give an entitlement, it's hard to take it away because people are benefiting from insurance now, and they didn't have it before. A lot of those folks voted for President Trump to become president. He is going to feel the sting of that.
I think some of this is the gamesmanship, "The Art of the Deal," of Donald Trump, the businessman, bringing it in here, saying, let's work on some of these areas and let's get it right. But he's also got a constituency that wants to do away with all of it. The difficulty is pronouncing that suddenly we have a better health care system. It takes time, it takes a lot of certainty, and he has injected uncertainty into the marketplace.
[13:50:03] BLITZER: Yesterday, he signed an executive order, April, as you know, allowing individuals to create these cooperatives, these group insurance companies that will allow them supposedly to have lower insurance costs, a lower premium, and that they can buy insurance across state lines. Today, the Justice Department says these other subsidies will go away and you can just do that.
RYAN: Right. That will create a system of higher rates. And everything that you're saying, I asked someone from the Obama administration who had worked on this, and I said, what did you think about it? He said, quote unquote, "It's evil." Wolf, when you talk about cutting subsidies and trying to recreate market with uncertainty, you are hurting the least of these.
When we talk, going back to what David said, when we talk about the people who would be hurt by the lack of subsidies, I'm not just thinking about the African-American community, who, at first, when they joined in on the Web site, they're like, wait a minute, I don't know if I can pay for this. And a lot of them did not jump to it, to click the button, yes, I want to enroll, because they didn't realize that subsidies would help them get insurance. But also I'm thinking about those is Appalachia, the poorest of the poor. Those in Appalachia who need the ACA, Affordable Care Act, because they don't like Obamacare. Because they didn't understand the difference. So I'm just thinking about those kinds of people and how this will hurt them instead of helping.
The president is embarking on something he wants to fix this, repeal, replace, whatever. He wants to do, totally abolish Obamacare. He wants to create something new but he doesn't really realize the ripple effect --
GREGORY: This is where I think his relationship, as we are talking about with Iran, is he would like to shock people, dare people --
RYAN: Yes. Shock and awe.
GREGORY: -- into coming in and working to perhaps strengthen in ways that aren't clear yet in either case. I think would he probably want to do a deal on Obamacare that gives him some room to say that, I fixed it.
BLITZER: Deal with the Democrats.
GREGORY: Yes. Deal with the Democrats. Because Republicans weren't able to get it done. In the end, he wants to be able to show there's something better on the other end of it. There's a lot of problems with Obamacare. It can't help the people not joining in.
GREGORY: That makes the whole thing not work so well. But there are a lot of people who are benefiting and they will remember it was Donald Trump who --
BLITZER: Yesterday, the president said, the director of legislative affairs, Mark Short, told me that a new effort to repeal and replace Obamacare probably can't come at least until the spring of next year.
But you know, there is an effort in the Senate right now, Lamar Alexander, Republican, Patty Murray, Democrat, they are working with others to come up with some fixes to the Obamacare. There are problems with Obamacare. They are working to come up with fixes. Potentially, they could get significant support across party lines.
RYAN: They could. But the problem is, everyone on all sides, even the people in the Obama administration, said, yes, there are issues, but let's work together and fix this. But when you have a president hellbent on just abolishing it, period. You know, you could say let's fix it. He wants it the way he wants it. And it is not coincidence that everyone, when they created it before, the repeal and replace, certain people were left off and certain people would be hurt. This is, once again, it is following the pattern. So you know, they can come up with something that might help the people, but this president is going down the road of what we have seen before. He is hellbent on making it the way he wants it.
GREGORY: But he doesn't necessarily know how he wants it. People who have worked on this issue, who worked directly with the president, said he is pretty shallow on all of this.
RYAN: He had seven years to figure it out.
GREGORY: And unwinding it piece by piece is not the way to get comprehensive change, which he understands. I think, right now, it's a political --
BLITZER: What he's also doing, David, and April, is he's trying to do away with several of the legacy items of the Obama presidency --
BLITZER: -- whether it is the Paris Climate Accord, NAFTA, Trans- Pacific Partnership, Iran nuclear deal, as we just saw, the Obamacare, Affordable Care Act. Some of the legacy items, you know, he says, get rid of them.
GREGORY: This could be a really perilous bet. Let's look at our recent history. A lot of what President Bush did, post 9/11, was in response to the president you covered, President Clinton, what they described as more of a wishy-washi foreign policy, a more feckless foreign policy, and they were going to be stronger and reflect American power. We saw what the Iraq years meant. So this unwinding of a predecessor's legacy is -- can be good politics. But it's got its huge down sides. And it is interesting how President Trump is huffing and puffing, but he's not quite blowing all these things down yet.
RYAN: But what cost, you know? What cost?
BLITZER: I want to bring in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She's joining us from New York.
Talk a little bit, Gayle, about what we heard from the president today -- I know you were listening very carefully to his decision -- to decertify the Iran nuclear deal and say, you know what, he will work with Congress to work with a better plan and allies will have to go along with that. What was your reaction?
[13:55:19] GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It is fascinating. You have decertification without destruction. You kick it to Congress. But it could have been, in the eyes of many people, a whole lot worse in terms of unwinding the deal totally. So you can decertify without causing it to collapse entirely. I think that's what you really saw happen today. And a lot of people were worried, I think, that it was going to go the full road. I think that shows you a lot of what this administration has done, which is really to talk a great deal about making a break with the past. But when it comes down to the substance, there is much more of what was, than you would have expected perhaps listening to some of the campaign rhetoric.
BLITZER: You think the European allies, the British, French, Germans, will go along with what the president has in mind?
TZEMACH LEMMON: They have already registered very deep unhappiness. They have talked -- just last month, when Secretary Tillerson was laying hints that this might be coming, the Europeans said, listen, we have one potential nuclear crisis in North Korea, we don't need another one. Secretary Mattis, actually, even on the Hill, as recently as just a few weeks back, saying that, as he saw it at that moment, the deal remained in the national interest. There are a lot of voices that said, listen, don't go looking for another crisis. I think what you see today is some measure of listening to those folks, while also really accomplishing what he wanted to do, from the president's perspective, in terms of the domestic politics and really giving into folks who said this is a bad deal, talk about how bad of a deal this is. But when it comes to actual substance, there is much less change than you might expect.
BLITZER: How do you think, Gayle, the Iranians will react to the president's tough talk?
TZEMACH LEMMON: Well, I mean, they would certainly be watching very closely. They have said they won't renegotiate the deal. But it is interesting. If you look what the is happening in the
Kurds, this is separate, but related, the Iranians, so far, have not tried to provoke the U.S. The Iraqi Kurdistan had this big referendum. There was some worry that Iran would come in hard, in terms of reacting to what the Iraqi Kurds had done. There is a sense, and there's been a lot of good reporting on this, that they haven't wanted to go too far because they know the Kurds are America's allies. So, in some ways, you're heard a lot of discussion from the Iranian side. And in their sense, it's some sense of a game that they can been seen as looking like a party that really holds its own end of the bargain without aggravating the Americans too thoroughly on other fronts, including and when it comes to the Kurds.
BLITZER: And the Treasury Department's decision today, for all practical purposes, to designate the Iranian -- the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is a huge, huge element -- hold on one minute.
The president just made a statement moments ago. Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
TRUMP: What it is going to do, is it is going to be time to negotiate health care that will be good for everybody. That money is a subsidy for insurance companies. Take a look at their stocks. Look where they are. They are going through the roof. From past. I don't know about today, but the insurance companies have made a fortune. That money was a subsidy and almost you could say a payoff to insurance companies. What we have to do is come up with great health care. That's what I did partially yesterday. That's going to cover a big segment. But now for the rest, we have to come up with the rest, whether it is going to be block grants or something else. And we just about have the votes. Now if the Democrats were smart, what they would do is come and negotiate something where people could get the kind of health care that they deserve being citizens of our great country.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- why not just now -- (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Because we will see what happens over the next short period of time. I could do that instantaneously. I like the two-step process better.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
TRUMP: No, because I think what we will do is we will be able to do is renegotiate so everybody gets -- we just took care after big chunk. Now we will take care of the other chunk. What would be nice, if the Democratic leaders could come over to the White House, we will negotiate a deal that's good for everybody. That's what I would like. But they are always a block vote against everything. They are like obstructionists. If they came over, maybe we could make a deal. But the subsidy is really a subsidy for the insurance company. That's not going to people. That's making insurance companies rich.
John? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
TRUMP: I may do that. I may do that. The deal is terrible. So what we have done is, through the certification process, we will have Congress take a look at it, and I may very well do that. But I like a two-step process much better.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)