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Kellyanne Conway Says Four Minority Congresswomen "Represent A Dark Underbelly in this Country"; 2020 Democrats Spar Over Competing Health Care Plans; North Korea Warns It May Resume Nuclear Testing, Accusing U.S. Breach of Recent Commitments; House to Vote on Resolution Condemning Trump as He Stands by Racist Attack on Congresswomen; Interview with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) on Trump's Racism. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thank you so much for watching. We'll see you tomorrow.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: resolved against Trump. We're standing by as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on a Democratic resolution condemning the president's racist comments aimed at four minority congresswomen.

There is plenty of drama and passion as the Democrat presiding over the House just threw his gavel down and stormed off.

Won't back down: the president is digging in his heels, renewing his attacks on the congresswomen of color, again saying they could leave the United States, as a top adviser adds fuel to the fire.

Won't speak up: some Republican lawmakers have slammed the president's racist tweets but their leaders in Congress either other won't speak up or will only speak in support of president.

Where will Republicans stand when the vote is called?

And testing nukes again?

Last month's historic handshake between President Trump and Kim Jong- un seems like a fading memory as North Korea issues a veiled threat to the United States.

Is Kim's regime about to start testing nukes again?

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news. BLITZER: Breaking news: amid stunning displays of anger and frustration, the House of Representatives is preparing to vote on a Democratic resolution condemning the president's, quote, "racist comments that have legitimized an increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color."

And while some Republican lawmakers have now criticized the president's tweets, their leaders have not and the president is calling on the GOP not to show weakness by joining in the resolution rebuking him.

That comes as President Trump is standing by his racist attack on four congresswomen of color, saying once more that they could leave the country. And members of his administration are weighing in. Top adviser Kellyanne Conway saying the four minority congresswomen represent, in her words, "a dark underbelly in this country."

I'll speak with congresswoman Jackie Speier of the Intelligence Committee and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories. CNN's Manu Raju is standing by up on Capitol Hill where the House is preparing to vote.

But let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president clearly is digging in, defending his attacks on these four congresswomen and now he's getting some help.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. President Trump is not backing off of his racist tweets. He's claiming they weren't racist but that is not true. Other top White House officials are jumping to the president's defense and digging a deeper hole in the process.

White House counsel Kellyanne Conway took a shot at one reporter who had brought up the racist tweets asking, quote, "What is your ethnicity?"


ACOSTA (voice-over): After his racist tweets aimed at four Democratic women of color in Congress, telling them to go back where they came from, President Trump is offering no apologies.

TRUMP: It is up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay. But they should love our country. And they should work for the good of our country.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president appears to be relishing the racial firestorm he touched off, insisting those tweets were not racist.

"I don't have a racist bone in my body." And he added that lawmakers who make up the so-called squad could get lost and tweeting, "Our country is free and beautiful and very successful and if you hate our country or are not happy here, you can leave."

One squad member, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fired back, "You're right, Mr. President, you don't have a racist bone in your body, you have a racist mind in your head and a racist heart in your chest."

Aides to the president are getting testy over tweets as White House counsel Kellyanne Conway asking one reporter for his ethnicity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To which countries was he referring?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is that relevant?

CONWAY: No, because I'm asking a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy. He's tired. A lot of us are sick and tired of this country -- of America coming last, to people who swore an oath of office. Sick and tired of our military being denigrated. Sick and tired of the Customs and Border Patrol protection people I was with who are overwhelming Hispanic, by the way --

ACOSTA (voice-over): Conway later tweeted this was meant with no disrespect. We're all from somewhere else originally.

But earlier in the day, Conway took her own jabs at the squad, describing the lawmakers as dark.

CONWAY: They represent a dark underbelly in this country of people who are not respecting our troops, are not giving them the resources and the respect that they deserve and they voted against the military aid --

ACOSTA (voice-over): At a cabinet meeting HUD secretary Ben Carson praised the president --


ACOSTA (voice-over): -- as doing God's work.

BEN CARSON, HUD SECRETARY: Would you rather have a non-politician whose speech is unfiltered, who gets a lot of stuff done or somebody with a silver tongue that gets nothing done?

But as I've told you before, I think God is using it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Most Republican lawmakers don't seem troubled by the tweets.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): I don't think they're racist. I've said that many times over the last 48 hours. They are probably divisive. I think if you broke down America on the tweets right now, the people that absolutely despise the president or are offended by the tweets and the people that support the president don't have a problem with the tweets.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats say it is another example of the GOP excusing Mr. Trump's offensive rhetoric.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there is anything sadder than having a racist, bigoted president, it is seeing the collapse of the Republican Party.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president tried to make light of his battle with the squad, joking reporters can leave the country, too.

TRUMP: If the press wants to stay, you can. If you'd like to leave, it is like I said the other day, I don't mind. If you want to leave. That is your option. You could leave any time you want.


ACOSTA: The president also defended the administration detention facilities down on the border, objecting to lawmakers calling them concentration camps and also said the detention facilities are well run but that is not the assessment in a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

That report quoted a senior official at one of those facilities who described the overcrowded conditions as a, quote, "ticking time bomb." And of course we've seen lots of pictures of those overcrowded conditions time and again in those facilities down on the border, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta over at the White House. Thank you for that report.

Up to Capitol Hill right now, where our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us.

In the last hours, a lot of drama unfolding on Capitol Hill.

What is the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The House is racing to a vote to condemn the president for his remarks. His tweets over the weekend. But that has been derailed after a dramatic moment on the House floor after the House Speaker took to the floor, condemned the president's remarks, called them racist, criticized them.

But the Republicans said they were out of bounds because they violate the rules of the House decorum, which says you cannot impugn the integrity of the president and cannot contend that he is racist.

They're saying those are out of bounds so as a result behind the scenes, the House went into debate on the House floor with top aides and the people in charge of governing the floor debate and ultimately the House parliamentarian sided against the Speaker and with the Republicans and said her words should be stricken from the House record.

So at the moment the House is voting on a motion to allow her words to be kept in the record. We expect that to pass.

But all part of this effort to move forward to have a vote tonight to strike down, to condemn the president's words. But it is clear here, Wolf, that there was a dramatic moment in which the person presiding over the chamber, Emanuel Cleaver, stormed off in frustration after the Speaker made these remarks.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and these comments are racist. How shameful to hear him to continue to defend those offensive words, words that we've all heard him repeat not only about our members but about countless others.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): We don't ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate. And that is what this is. I'll dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there was any unfairness. But unfairness is not enough because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair.


RAJU: A really dramatic moment for Cleaver abandoning the chair. He was frustrated at Republicans going after the Speaker. You don't see that often, Wolf. It just speaks to what is happening on the House floor, a very partisan, emotional fight being waged. Democrats moving forward.

Expect that vote still tonight to condemn the president for his tweets over the weekend. As Democrats say the president should apologize essentially and the president and the Republicans pushing back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the Republican leaders are clearly trying to circle the wagons, Manu, right now.

How are they doing?

RAJU: Well, they are starting to line up with the president. For the most part the House Republicans and Senate Republican leaders say the president was in the right to push back.

The House -- the Senate majority leader did say that all sides should lower the temperature today. He would not condemn the president nor would he call the president racist or his tweets racist. He said the president is not racist.

But when I asked the Senate majority leader about a very personal issue, the fact that his wife, Elaine Chao, who's now in the president's cabinet, emigrated to the country and became a naturalized citizen, if he would agree with people that would say she should go back to her country, whether or not --


RAJU: -- that was a racist attack, Senate majority leader did not say it would be racist if someone made those remarks. Take a listen.


RAJU: You're married to an immigrant that is a naturalized U.S. citizen and if someone would say to her she should go back to her country because of her criticism of federal policies, won't you consider that a racist attack?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, the Secretary of Transportation came here at age 8 legally, not speaking a word of English and realized the American dream. And I think all of us think that this is a process of renewal that has gone on in this country for a very long time and is good for America. And we ought to continue it.

RAJU: But is it racist for him to say go back -- was it racist for him to say go back to your country, saying those --


MCCONNELL: Illegal immigration has been a fulfilling of the American dream. There are new people who come here and have a lot of ambition and a lot of energy. Tend to do very well and invigorate our country and my wife is a good example of that.


RAJU: And the partisan fight not backing down, Wolf. Just moments ago, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to reporters off the House floor and her colleague said that Nancy Pelosi said she's absolutely no regrets to what she said earlier, contending the president's remarks were racist.

She said that they should not be stricken from the record. So she is making it very clear what she did was not wrong, she's pushing back. Most Democrats will align with her as most Republicans are going to align with the president.

And that is going to play out tonight on the House floor when they vote to condemn the president's remarks. Most Republicans, if not all, a handful, will vote for the resolution but most will side with the White House.

BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you. You are busy over the next few hours.

Joining us now, Democratic congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, a member of the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

Thanks for joining us.

You plan on supporting this resolution condemning the president's racist tweets.

But do you expect a significant number of Republicans to vote for the resolution?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I can't speak to how many will. But it is not crafted in a way of attacking the president per se.

It is reconfirming that we support immigration, that to use that trope of going back to your country is, in fact, a racist comment without attributing it necessarily to the president.

I will say that, Wolf, this is yet another example of how my Republican colleagues have lost their moral compass. I mean, under any other set of circumstances, everyone would gather around and say, of course, this is racist. You would never -- first of all, three of these women were born here in the United States.

But if you look at the litany of statements made by the president over the course of his candidacy and his presidency, there are filled with examples of him trying to separate whites and persons of color and to somehow denigrate people of color, whether he is saying it is a S-hole in some of the countries or calling Mexicans rapists who are coming across our border.

These are truly despicable descriptions. And at some point, he's an emperor with no clothes.

And when are we going to say that he is naked?

BLITZER: What are you hearing, congresswoman, excuse me --


BLITZER: -- the Republicans members in private, are they defending the president's remarks?

SPEIER: I think they're uncomfortable. I've only spoken to a few of them. There is a level of discomfort by the president continuing to legislate by tweeting. And they are fearful, though, of crossing him. That is what is so troubling.

I mean, if we're not people of courage to come forward and speak truth to power, well, what are we doing here?

But that is precisely what is happening among Republicans. To have Mitch McConnell say -- dance around the fact that his wife, who is not a American citizen by birth but by choice, if someone said to her, go back to your country, he wouldn't say that is racist?

Of course he would say that is racist.

BLITZER: Some Democrats think the resolution goes -- doesn't go far enough.

Do you think the president should have been formally censured instead?

SPEIER: I don't know whether censuring does any good at this point. We have a president who is interested in inflaming this issue over and over again, whether it is at the border or here among members.

I mean, let's be clear. He called them radical Democrats. Well, I could say that there are radical Republicans.

So what?

They are persons with different points of view that come to Congress, bring their perspectives, are elected duly by their constituents, have a --


SPEIER: -- right to serve and I'm not going to cast aspersions against any of any Republican colleagues, who I believe love this country and are trying to represent the best interests. But we disagree on a lot of policy.

BLITZER: Democratic congressman Al Green of Texas says he is planning on introducing an impeachment resolution in light of the president's racist tweets.

Do you plan to support that as well?

SPEIER: Well, I have supported an inquiry -- an impeachment inquiry based on the Mueller report and I stand by that. I would have to consider whether or not I would want to do it based on the president's words.

But his efforts to divide our country, when his sole job in terms of the American people is to bring us together, and he does everything on a daily basis to tear us apart, it is not constructive.

BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts, Congresswoman, on another important issue. The president announced he's banning the sale of f- 35 fighter jets to Turkey, a NATO ally, after they acquired a Russian- made air defense system.

But rather than place the blame on Turkey or Russia, for that matter, the president blamed the Obama administration for not selling Turkey a similar American air defense system years ago.

Is it fair to blame President Obama for this situation?

SPEIER: No, it is not fair to blame President Obama. But that is what the president does best. Blame anyone but yourself. He's been in office now for two and a half years. He's got to start taking responsibility for what is happening.

He likes to take responsibility when the job numbers are up. But if the job numbers were down, he's probably blame that on President Obama, too.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, thank you so much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, anger and frustration boil over as the House of Representatives takes up a resolution condemning racist tweets by President Trump.

And North Korea issues a new warning to the United States.

Is Kim Jong-un's regime about to start testing nukes again?





BLITZER: Breaking news: we're awaiting a vote in the House on a resolution to condemn the president's racist comments directed at members of Congress. Judging by the debate so far, it has the support of very few Republicans.

Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts.

And Jeff Zeleny, condemning racism shouldn't necessarily be a partisan issue.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, everything is a partisan issue, particularly in this climate in this moment in this town and this whole discussion has devolved into a partisan issue. Not surprisingly at all.

We haven't seen this exact movie play out but it seems like we have again and again with this. But I think there may be a couple of Republicans who cross over; Justin Amash from Michigan, who was a Republican who is leaving the Republican Party, he's probably one who is likely to. Otherwise I can't think of many others who are going to.

But the reality here is this is going to simply just not advance the argument about what this is all about. Republicans in the House of Representatives, every single one of them are up for re-election in 2020 and they're afraid to stand up against the president and many think that these Democrats have been wrong and some of the comments that they've said as well here.

So I'm not sure at the end of this if the vote actually happens this evening, what this is going to accomplish, other than unify the Democrats probably and make the country think that Washington is even more of a mess. But how you view this is how you viewed it coming in.

BLITZER: Because this is clearly the White House is watching this vote, especially the Republicans, Kaitlan, very closely. Today the president tweeted Republicans should not show weakness and fall into that trap.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the president is watching all of this very closely and especially because right now the president has nothing on his schedule, he's supposed to be meeting with congressional Republican leadership about an hour ago.

They postponed the meeting because of all of the drama happening right now on the House floor. Even though senators were already in a car on the way to the White House.

But the president is paying very close attention because he thinks those Democrats that he's been attacking should be rebuked, not his own comments. And today so much is on his mind that even in his cabinet meeting he had a stack of papers in front of him that he said was a list of all the comments he says are vile that they've made.

So the president, Jeff is right, has this hold on the Republican Party. So don't expect any rebuke from the Republicans. But the president will be watching who does rebuke him.

BLITZER: So he canceled his meeting with the Republicans leaders because he wants to watch the vote?

COLLINS: So they didn't say -- they didn't say who canceled it. They just said, you know, kind of quietly, this meeting has been postponed. Will let you know later. But of course you can't ignore that there is drama happening on the House floor and clearly it was a last-minute cancelation since people like Mitch McConnell were already in the car, on the way on the short drive down to the White House.

But they said it is delayed they just won't say for how long or for what but it seems pretty obvious if you turn on C-SPAN.

BLITZER: Sabrina, what does this vote tell us about politics right now in this Trump era?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is remarkable within of itself that there is a vote being held on a resolution to formally rebuke the president's comments as racist. The resolution doesn't explicitly call the president racist but it twice refers to his remarks as being racist.

And then it is become, in some ways, par for the course in this administration but it is still --


SIDDIQUI: -- unprecedented for the president to single out these four congresswomen of color.

And I think frankly one of the most telling things that the president said was yesterday when he was asked if he was concerned if his comments were racist. And he said he wasn't because he said that there are a lot of Americans who agree with him.

And I think that really reinforces just how intentional this is on the president's part. And it is no coincidence his re-election campaign is around the corner and that's you'll see very few Republicans joining Democrats in condemning what he had to say.

A lot of this is trying to appeal to some of the worst resentments that a faction of Americans hold against people of color and that is what this debate is all about.

BLITZER: Susan, we'll get to you in a moment. We're watching the House floor getting ready for the final role call. We'll be right back.


[17:30:31] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Speaker Nancy Pelosi's words will not be stricken from the record. There was a roll call vote just completed a moment ago.

She, earlier in the day, said her comments involving the White House and what the White House was saying, referring to the President, were disgraceful and disgusting, the comments are racist. Republicans stood up and said that was not in compliance with the decorum of the House of Representatives. It was a formal roll call. The Democrats won, her words will remain.

Susan Hennessey, what do you think?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I think it's pretty remarkable that instead of having a conversation -- instead of seeing the Republicans have a conversation about whether or not the President's words were actually racist, we're having a conversation about whether or not it is acceptable to call something that, let's be clear, is plainly racist by that name on the House floor. And so this is certainly an unprecedented situation, but to the extent it's so surprising and so unprecedented, it goes back to the President of the United States making these comments in the first place.

Keep in mind, you know, it's taken two years for the House Democrats to get to this point. It is not as though he came into office and they were running to the House floor calling him a racist, calling his statements racist. He has incrementally pushed them sort of past the point in which there is any other word to fairly describe, you know, the President's statements. They were racist.

BLITZER: And now, we're standing by for this other roll call, this other vote on the House floor on this resolution condemning -- condemning -- the President's racist comments directed at members of Congress. The Democrats will vote for it; the Republicans will vote against it. We'll see how many Republicans, though, bolt from the President.

I want to get your thoughts, Jeff Zeleny, on one of the President's top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, defending the President's racist tweets. She had this exchange earlier in the day with a reporter.


ANDREW FEINBERG, MANAGING EDITOR AND WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BREAKFAST MEDIA: If the President was not telling these four congresswomen to return to their supposed countries of origin, which countries was he referring?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said go home.

FEINBERG: Why is that relevant?


CONWAY: No, no, because I'm asking you a question.

FEINBERG: Yes, but what --

CONWAY: My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.

FEINBERG: Kellyanne, my own ethnicity is not relevant to the question I am asking.

CONWAY: We are tired, sick and tired, of many people in this country -- forget these four. They represent a dark underbelly in this country of people who are not respecting our troops, are not giving them the resources and the respect that they deserve.

They just represent a very dark element in this country that seems to be -- seems to not respect the military, not respect the veterans, not vote for humanitarian aid. Why is that?


BLITZER: You know, two points here, Jeff. A reporter asking a fair question, she shoots back and says, what's your ethnicity? And then she speaks of these four congresswomen, all congresswomen of color, saying they represent a dark underbelly in this country.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Are we surprised by anything Kellyanne Conway has to say at this point? I mean, she is one of the closest advisers to the President. It's why the President likes her and keeps her around because she says things that fit exactly into his mind and worldview.

She sounded like an immigration agent there, almost, at the airport. What country are you from? That's ridiculous, of course. She is trying to change the subject, and we still have not heard an answer to the question about where the President would like to see these members of Congress, these four Americans, sent to. Go back where?

So the whole -- this whole thing -- and, really, it's only been 48 hours -- has really devolved into something, but I think the bigger picture here is, what does this mean? Is it more likely that the President is going to be impeached? Are they going to be impeachment proceedings?

This has fanned the partisan flames, which is exactly, I think, what the President was trying to do to gin up his base before the 2020 election. So we'll see if the next 18 months are like this or not, but it seems to be heading in that direction.

BLITZER: You were there, Kaitlan, during that exchange.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and what this is is a larger effort by the President's aides and his allies, even the President, to rebrand these attacks that were racist on Sunday into an attack of their policies, their past statements, and socialism, in general. They are trying to turn it around to that even though what the President initially said by telling these women who were born in America, three of the four of them, to go back to the places which they came from has nothing to do with socialism.

So, of course, now, we are trying to see them try to message it because we know a lot of the President's allies and advisers behind the scenes have been telling him, they don't think that was the wisest line of attack for him to take on Sunday. So what you're seeing is them trying to rebrand it and say, well, that's not what he was saying, he was clearly saying this. And that fit into exactly how Kellyanne was reacting to reporters who were asking if she thought what the President said was problematic; instead, she turned into a conversation about socialism.

[17:35:08] BLITZER: Yes. What did you think of that exchange he had?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, it looks like Kellyanne Conway was trying to spin the President's comments as meaning that everyone has a heritage. She offered up her own ancestry. But in many ways, she reaffirmed what the President intended to say in his tweets, that he was, in fact, insinuating that these four women of color should go back to where they came from. And you know, Kaitlan and Jeff just repeated it, that three of them were born in the United States, and Ilhan Omar, who came here as a Somali refugee when she was at a young age, is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

And I think it's just important to reinforce that what's so significant about these four women is, yes, you could have a debate over the ideology and just how far to the left they are trying to push the Democratic Party, but they were also elected, in part, to represent the voices of communities who aren't -- who haven't really been represented within the hallways of Congress. And so for them to be attacked on the basis of the color of their skin, that is why you have seen this uproar in terms of the way that the President singled out them specifically and not say Bernie Sanders or some of the other progressive voices in Washington.

BLITZER: She's getting grief for using the phrase, "these four women represent a dark underbelly in our country."

HENNESSEY: Yes. Certainly, nothing about that statement seemed particularly well thought out, and I think Kellyanne Conway is sort of falling back to her classic gaslighting. She's trying to suggest, well, we all come from somewhere else as though the President's comments had nothing to do with the fact these are -- that these congresswomen are women of color.

My ancestors are German and Polish. No one has ever, once in my life, suggested that I go back to where I came from. That is not an experience shared by minorities in this country. This is a well-known and well-tread racial and ethnic slur that the President was using.

And we saw Kellyanne Conway, in her own statements -- I think it illustrates how fundamentally indefensible it was. Even whenever she tries to sort of offer this defense, it just shows how fundamentally unacceptable this language is.

BLITZER: Does the White House think they're winning this debate right now?

COLLINS: It depends on who you ask. To a degree, the President might feel like he is because the President and some of his allies on Capitol Hill who agree with him now see that they've got these four progressive candidates, who Nancy Pelosi even has said do not recognize the entirety of the caucus, who are the ones on camera.

Their statements are being replayed, and that is something the President wants because he wants the face of the Democratic Party going into 2020 to be just those four members. Not the Joe Bidens, not the more moderate members of the Democratic Party. And, of course, Pelosi has acknowledged that's a widespread ideology in their party, but that is exactly what the President and his allies want to do.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There is more news we're following. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates roll out plans to lower drug prices and improve health care. Would any of their ideas work?

And despite President Trump's border meeting with Kim Jong-un, why are the North Koreans now making noise about possibly resuming nuclear testing?


BLITZER: We're watching as the House debates a resolution condemning President Trump's racist tweets. And as the drama in Washington unfolds, the Democratic presidential candidates are sparring over their newly revealed health care plans. CNN's Ryan Nobles is keeping track of this part of the story for us. Tell us more.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's no doubt that health care remains a priority for these Democratic candidates. And this week, we're seeing many of them roll out policy proposals specifically aimed at that important issue. It is an issue that polls show Democratic primary voters care a lot about.


NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, health care, once again, front and center on the 2020 campaign trail.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't afford right now that the pharmaceutical companies have been jacking up prices over and over and over again. We have got to restructure the health care system of America.

NOBLES (voice-over): Kamala Harris unveiling a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Calling for the federal government to set a fair price for prescriptions sold at cheaper prices in economically comparable countries and a tax of 100 percent on profits that drug makers collect from selling prescriptions above that fair price. The Harris plan comes just one day after Joe Biden released his

comprehensive health care plan that includes a provision to lower drug costs. Biden is calling for an independent panel to review the cost of drugs that have no competition in the market and a tax on increased prices that exceed the right of inflation. The former Vice President is seeking to draw a contrast with others in the Democratic field by forcefully defending the Affordable Care Act passed during the Obama- Biden administration and warning about what he sees as the flaws with Medicare for all.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the transition of dropping 300 million people on a new plan, I'm telling you, is, I think, kind of a little risky at this point.

NOBLES (VOICE-OVER): Bernie Sanders returning fire this morning.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like Joe and I hope we will have this debate, you know. But when Joe says something to the effect that Medicare for seniors -- what did you say -- will end? I mean, that's just an obviously absurd situation.

NOBLES (voice-over): And as the candidates work to one-up each other on the policy front, the view of the money race is coming into sharper focus as campaigns finish reporting their second-quarter fundraising numbers.

[17:45:00] South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg led the field in the second quarter raising nearly $25 million. The Midwest mayor also emerging as a Hollywood favorite, cashing checks from stars like Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, and "Star Trek" star George Takei. As for the most cash on hand, it is Sanders who still refuses to hold fundraisers but currently leads with more than $27 million. While Beto O'Rourke who raised $9.4 million in just three weeks in the first quarter brought in only $3.6 million over the past three months.


NOBLES: And an early sign of a campaign's long-term viability is its burn rate. That's how much it spends versus how much it brings in. In the last quarter, 10 of the Democratic campaigns spent more than they raised. That was led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Wolf, she ended up spending twice as much as her campaign brought in.

BLITZER: Ryan Nobles reporting for us. Ryan, thank you for that.

A quick reminder, find out which Democratic candidates will face-off on each night of the next debates in the special live event. Watch "THE DRAW" for the CNN Democratic presidential debates Thursday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up, an ominous new warning from Kim Jong-un's regime. Is it a veiled threat to resume nuclear testing?


[17:50:59] BLITZER: Last month's historic handshake between President Trump and Kim Jong-un is losing some of its promise as North Korea issues what sounds like an ominous warning to the United States. Brian Todd has been looking into this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, Kim Jong-un's regime is, once again, engaging in negotiation by intimidation. Its latest threat has officials and analysts asking whether Pyongyang is about to walk away from diplomacy.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, it appears all of this --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Stepping across that line was a great honor.

TODD (voice-over): -- may have been for naught. Just two weeks after their historic meeting at the DMZ and President Trump's short stroll into North Korea, North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-un, appears to be threatening to start testing his nuclear weapons again.

In a new statement, Kim's foreign ministry calls the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises planned for next month a breach of the main spirit of what President Trump and Kim agreed to in Singapore and says, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the U.S.

MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ASIA AND JAPAN CHAIR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Kim Jong-un has been friendly and smiled with Donald Trump, but what we're seeing with these statements is to a more normal North Korean negotiating technique, which is to point a gun at the other guy's head and say do what we want, or we will, you know, launch missiles, test nuclear weapons. So it's all about leverage.

TODD (voice-over): Today, President Trump seemed unfazed about the new threat.

TRUMP: The relationship is very good. I think we've made tremendous progress on North Korea. And again, time is not of the essence, but I think good things will ultimately happen.

TODD (voice-over): Kim's regime apparently doesn't see it that way, calling those U.S.-South Korean military drills, quote, a rehearsal of war aimed at military occupying our republic by surprise attack. It's not the first time Kim's regime has objected to the joint military exercises, but why does the regime always frame them as practice for an invasion?

GREEN: One reason is they're paranoid. I mean, the entire North Korean regime is built on paranoia. But the other reason is they want to try to use that as leverage to get the U.S. to weaken its readiness, to weaken its alliances.

TODD (voice-over): Despite the pageantry and promise at the Singapore summit last year, when Kim made his initial vague promise to get rid of his nuclear weapons, despite the dramatic images at the DMZ and words of friendship, by CNN's count, North Korea has made no fewer than 12 direct or implied threats since Singapore to pull out or walk back from the diplomatic process. Even as Kim appears to maintain his personal connection to Trump.

DEAN CHENG, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW OF THE ASIAN STUDIES CENTER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think that the spin that is occurring from Pyongyang is any concessions that do occur are because of their threats. Second of all, there does seem to be this belief on the part of Kim Jong-un that he and Trump may actually have some kind of relationship.

TODD (voice-over): Still, analysts say while North Korea may not be planning to get rid of its nuclear program any time soon, the idea it could restart testing soon may be less of a solid promise and more of an empty threat.

GREEN: I think they probably won't do it. China would come down on them very, very hard. For now, they're getting a bit of a pass from the Chinese because they're engaged in dialogue.


TODD: While the President shows patience with North Korea, his aides are sending a tougher signal to Pyongyang. A senior administration official telling CNN tonight, U.S. sanctions are going to stay in place until Kim Jong-un fulfills his commitment to completely denuclearize. And that same official indicated that those joint military exercises with South Korea are not about to be canceled, saying they're purely defensive in nature -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Coming up, breaking news. Stunning displays of anger and frustration as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on a Democratic resolution condemning the President's racist comments about minority congresswomen, but the President is renewing his attacks.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Disapproval vote. We're standing by for a House vote on a resolution condemning President Trump's racist tweets. Tonight, tempers are flaring in the chamber as Republicans defend the President and accuse Speaker Nancy Pelosi of breaking the rules.

[18:00:02] No apologies. New efforts by Mr. Trump and his aides to defend his attack on four Democratic congresswomen sparked new controversy --