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Trump Administration Threatens Syria; Senate Republicans Forced to Delay Controversial Health Care Vote. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 16:30   ET



BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad climbs into the cockpit of a Russian aircraft, the Kremlin's military chief of staff watching nearby, just as Moscow and Damascus get an ominous warning from President Trump about Assad getting ready for another chemical weapons attack.

A sudden overnight statement from the White House saying: "The United States has identified preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children," warning that Assad will pay a heavy price.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The goal is at this point not just to send Assad a message, but to send Russia and Iran a message that, if this happens again, we are putting you on notice.

STARR: The U.S. had watched this Syrian air base at Shayrat for days, the same base the Syrians used in April when they attacked civilians with sarin nerve agent. The U.S. responded then, firing 59 Tomahawk missiles.

But fresh intelligence has the U.S. worried.

CAPT. JEFF DAVIS, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: The information that we have that we saw became more compelling in the last day.

STARR: U.S. imagery shows a Syrian aircraft in a shelter with chemical weapons nearby. It's not clear if Assad and his backers got the message.

HALEY: My hope is that the president's warning will certainly get Russia and Iran to take a second look, and I hope that it will caution Assad.

STARR: Trump's warning was closely held until the last minute. The White House and the defense officials say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis knew about the intelligence, but many other officials unaware.

The U.S. military has options for President Trump if he decides to act. The president has drawn a red line, suggesting conditions for action, something he said he would not do. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want them to

know what I'm thinking.

STARR: But if Trump doesn't act, he's in the position of potentially knowing about a future attack against civilians and not stopping it.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If we were to wait for an attack to happen knowing that it was about to happen, then, yes, we have abrogated responsibility under the U.N. charter.


STARR: But if Assad were to proceed, military officials are making it clear they have everything in place to strike again -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

We have much more to discuss with the breaking news on the Senate health care bill and what changes President Trump might be discussing right now with Republican senators at the White House. Stick around. We will be right back.



TAPPER: We're back way very packed politics lead and a very august panel.

The health care vote in the Senate was delayed. Republicans senators right now at the White House. The White House is issuing a dire warning to Syria and much, much more.

Let's dive right in.

Amanda, let me start with you.

What needs -- what is the path forward for the Republican health care bill? Because, obviously, you have forces, for want of a better term, on the left, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, others concerned that this bill is too harsh when it comes to Medicaid cuts, Planned Parenthood, et cetera.

People on the right, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and others, concerned that it still keeps the basic structure of Obamacare.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And that's why I would say two things.

First and foremost, they have to figure out how they're going to message the Medicaid issue. I don't think there is a broad understanding that Obamacare largely is three things, Medicaid expansion, taxes and subsidies.

You cannot repeal or scale back Obamacare without touching those three planks. And for these Republican senators, like Senator Collins, to kind of come out and say, oh, I had no idea what was going to happen with Medicaid in my state is silly.

The fact that they don't know how to message that is a huge problem. They have to take care of that, first and foremost. Secondly, there has to be relief on the individual market. These families that got hammered, that don't get the subsidies, don't get the help, they need a way out, because deductibles and premiums are too high, and if they can't sell that to the middle class, they will not have a bill.

TAPPER: Although, Michelle, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in addition to the magnificent things that this bill will do, it will make premiums go up.

That's one of the conclusions that the CBO reached, is that all these smaller plans that will be allowed to be offered will mean that premiums are less, but the deductibles will go up much higher.

MICHELLE COTTLE, "THE ATLANTIC": This is fundamentally what you're dealing with, is, health care reform sounds great in theory, but it's always been in the details.

And when the senators start looking at what it's going to do to their individual states, it hits older voters really hard. No senator wants older voters hit harder. This is a disaster for them.

And it's a little bit perplexing how we got seven years of promises to repeal and reform without anybody kind of figuring out what the big chunks of that were going to be and to be ready for it. And they seem wholly unready to deal with this.

TAPPER: Where do you see this going?

OLIVIER KNOX, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, I really want to watch the governors.

I thought it was very shrewd of to have the two governors on, because one of the sources of pressure on some of these Republican senators are Republican governors who went along with the Medicaid expansion in their own states and who are now looking at the math and saying, wait, we can't afford this Republican rollback. We can't afford it. You have got to vote against this.

That puts a lot of pressure on some of these senators. Mitch McConnell has shown that he's pretty good at squeezing the balloon. The idea is if you satisfy the moderates, all of a sudden, you have lost the very conservative. And then if you help the conservatives, maybe you have lost the moderates.

But he's got a fairly large pot of money with which he could placate some of these moderates. There are a lot of concerns about what this bill would do to treatments for opioid addiction, for example. There is a path forward, but in some ways it has to go through the governors.

TAPPER: What's also interesting is the way that this pro-Trump super PAC has gone after some of the Republicans that have been wavering on this, like Dean Heller, senator from Nevada, who is up for reelection.


His governor, Republican Governor Sandoval, has been pretty clear that he wants to keep the Medicaid expansion. So I don't know if this helps or hurts Dean Heller to be attacked to be attacked by this Trump super PAC.

CARPENTER: What would help is for the White House to provide some messaging, to give these people a place to land.

Again, it gets back to the Medicaid discussion. You cannot interfere with Obamacare in this way without tinkering with that program. That is why the governors are screaming. And there is a story to be told there between the states that did expand the Medicaid pools and the states that did not.

The states that -- Obamacare was somewhat of a bribe. They said if you expand your Medicaid pools, we will give you some money in the short-term, but it's not going to be enough. And now Governor Kasich is being hurt by that, whereas states that did not take that money and said, no, we will figure this out on our own do not have that problem.

So we need to have the national discussion about the very population that Medicaid should serve, because Obamacare expanded that so that anybody that is able-bodied between 18 and 34 can now get on the program. That is a problem.

This is a program that was supposed to serve the needy, and the disabled and the destitute. We've gotten away from that and that's the problem.

TAPPER: What about Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski objecting to the provision that strips funding from Planned Parenthood for a year? They are two of 52 that hold that position in terms of Republicans.

COTTLE: It's a very good point.

But if you start trying to bring them back into the fold, then you run into problems with the more conservative members who have already said that they're not happy with this, Lee and Rand Paul. And they want to blow this up and start from scratch. And they have been pretty harsh about this already.

So, if you start chipping at the stuff that is in there for them, they already think that not enough has been done. You risk losing even more of those.

TAPPER: Olivier, Amanda talked about the messaging problem. One messaging, let's call it a challenge, is that President Trump behind closed doors and then in front of the world labeled the House version mean, even after he held that celebration in the Rose Garden for it.

KNOX: Mean, right.

TAPPER: This bill -- I mean, how do Republicans make the argument this is not mean, this is a nice bill?

KNOX: Well, Republicans, first of all, are bracing for the mean comment to be in every single ad in 2018 if this bill passes.

The White House is working really hard to try to portray their messaging and the outreach as very conventional. They describe the president has been working the phones and talking to these undecided or wavering senators behind the scenes.

That event we just saw was interesting, because of course Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were on either side of the president getting the hard sell.

TAPPER: Right.

KNOX: Senator Heller was, I think, was one seat over from that.

The Republicans I have talked to on Capitol Hill typically prefer it when the president limits his public input into this conversation, because you never know what he's going to say.

CARPENTER: One point on that, on the campaign trail, President Trump said that he would not touch Medicaid, but also that he was going to repeal Obamacare.

Those statements were completely incompatible. If he is going to talk about Obamacare repeal, he should really understand what it does. I do not think his press secretary understands what it does.

In the White House briefing today, she was asked, should a family of four that makes $60,000 a year be on Medicaid? She said, I don't know, I have to look into it.

That answer is simple. No, they should not be on Medicaid. They should be able to afford a plan on their own. That's the problem. Health care is too expensive.

But they seem so caught off-guard by these simple fundamental mechanics of Obamacare that they are going to have to learn it before they try to undo it.

TAPPER: Let's briefly turn to Syria and the president's threat yesterday that if Assad prepares -- continues to prepare to use chemical weapons that he will face recriminations. Is this another red line?

KNOX: It is a red line. It's absolutely, it's explicitly a red line. If you do this, you will pay a heavy price.

And, oh, and by the way, we're also going to hold Russia and Iran partly responsible for this because of their support for the regime of Bashar Assad. It was a red line. It was an unusual one in that it took a long time for them to provide the supporting information for it.

Last night, it wasn't really forthcoming. And the other thing that I would note is this is what some people on the Hill worry about when they talk about an escalation or mission creep. And it was acknowledged in the statement last night.

They said, well, hold on, our primary mission is still to defeat the Islamic State. However, we will also take this role on if we need to. Some folks on the Hill are a little bit worried about that. They don't like the idea that we are going to see more and more strikes on Syrian government targets. And, in fact, Tim Kaine think that is illegal.

TAPPER: Is it mission creep, Michelle?

COTTLE: You always run the risk of that.

And I think that people are worried about it. People have talked about that thus far what we've looked at with this president are crises largely of his own making or miscommunications. We're about to see how he handles something potentially international that's not of his own making, he has no control over, and I think a lot of people are very nervous.

TAPPER: All right. Great panel, everyone. Thank you so much.

An inside look at the so-called capital of ISIS, as control appears to be slipping away from the terrorist group, that CNN exclusive next.

Plus, Google hit with a record multibillion-dollar fine -- how Google's own shopping service got it into trouble.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD now. A CNN exclusive in our "WORLD LEAD," we're getting a rare look inside life inside Raqqa, the de facto capital of the terrorist group ISIS. CNN has obtained secret video which shows the terrorist group so-called caliphate may be near collapsing. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh explains why the reign of terror may be coming to an end at the heart of ISIS' power.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what a reign of terror looks like when it's in collapse. Yes, the traffic is normal, so is the market but you can tell ISIS is losing here on the streets of Raqqa, the capital of their fast-shrinking caliphate for one thing. It's actually pretty easy to film them in secret. Using a hidden body camera could be a death sentence for this activist, but in these besiege streets, mine with sand bags encircled by American-backed Syrian fighters, they just don't fear ISIS anymore. (AUDIO GAP) so even this foreign fighter Abu Isha from Belgium is a target as he makes a front line fashion choice and elsewhere. Two Russian-speaking fighters appear to discuss airstrikes.


WALSH: Here, Abu Luqman, the Egyptian looks for this military police where a Tunisian man Abu (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm his brother.

WALSH: Streets are covered with canopies meant to shelter ISIS fighters from prying coalition drones above. But despite the war, the market's brimming, even the wounded hobbling around. Under siege, why is there so much food? Well, it's shipped in from nearby regime-held area as we're told. Commerce alive and well in the caliphate, this shop even seems to offer to change dollars. Sandbags give shelter from airstrikes but also a defensive positions when street to street fighting reaches here. But some locals have already made this hostile to reign.

One activist from the group (INAUDIBLE) telling us how he pinned night letters, death threats, to the doors of ISIS informants. We can only get to them, he says, by leaving messages on their doors saying, we know who you are. This soon stopped them. And some friends started writing the word "free" on walls if ISIS buildings then locals started, the elderly writing it on walls and children on chalkboards, making ISIS wonder, who are these people? It's getting ugly for ISIS here. They've moved their prisons out, top commanders have fled. Their lieutenants only drive around in low-profile normal cars. Their enemy is literally at the gates. ISIS' world vanishing fast and this may be among the last times we glimpse into their warped way of life.


WALSH: Jake, in the last 24 to 48 hours, the forces of United States are backing both on the ground and in the air both Syrians Arabs and Syrian Kurds, appear to have pretty much finished the cordon they've tried to put in place around Raqqa. It's now effectively sealed off from the outside world, stronger than it's ever has been before. The issue is how fast will they move into its downtown area, into its small residential built-up streets. It appears to be going quite fast, almost certainly, it will be faster than the Iraqi city of Mosul, almost completely cleaned of ISIS as I speak to you now. The broader question, of course, is what happens when ISIS is kicked out of that city? A lot of competition now between many of the rival groups in Northern Syria to establish the end game, they would like to see when ISIS is taken out. The issue now with the Trump administration threatening the Syrian regime is exactly where does the U.S. see itself in a post-ISIS world in Syria? Are they out or are they still trying to influence the game? Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nick Paton Walsh thank you so much. Also in world news today, the State Department is out with its annual human trafficking report with the President's daughter and Senior Adviser, Ivanka Trump on hand to pledge her efforts to save an estimated 20 million adults and children who are exploited by human traffickers around the world. The first daughter who as I said is also an Adviser to the President told the crowd today that ending human trafficking is a major foreign policy priority for the Trump administration.


IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ADVISER: This year's report emphasizes the responsibility all governments have to prosecute human traffickers. On a personal level, as a mother, this is much more than a policy priority. It is a clarion calls to action in defense of the vulnerable, the abused and the exploited. Last month while in Rome, I had an opportunity to talk firsthand with human trafficking survivors. They told me their harrowing stories, how they were trapped in this ugly dark web. How they survived, how they escaped, and how they are very slowly reconstructing their lives.


TAPPER: Noted in the report, China is now joining the ranks of Russia, Iran, Syria and North Korea as the worst offenders in human trafficking in the world.

Google gets fined billions of dollars, accused of abusing power, not for putting a picture of your backyard on the web. What did they do? That's next.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: And we're back with our "MONEY LEAD," Europe slapping Google with a record fine of $2.7 billion. The European Union says Google is rigging searches and harming fair competition by steering customers to its own shopping service over the competition. For example, when shoppers type in "blue shoes" on Google, these images pop up first as their results from Google Shopping, those boxes nudge all other results further down the screen. The E.U. says with Google illegally giving those shoe companies priority placement, anything that comes after really doesn't have a chance. Google says it is considering an appeal. The company has 90 days to change its policy otherwise it might face additional penalties.

CNN has been covering the Russia investigation since they first emerge, so tonight be sure to tune in for CNN's special report, "THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION, INSIDE THE ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY." Jim Sciutto taking you inside the Russian hacking investigation, it all starts tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, delaying the vote. Senate Republican Leaders delay a vote on their health care bill because they don't have enough support from their own party to pass it.