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Putin to Expel Hundreds of U.S. Diplomats over Sanctions; Trump: We'll "Handle" North Korea, U.S. "Handles Everything"; Trump Threatens to Cut Off Payments to Insurers, Cut Off Insurance for Congressmen & Their Staff over Obamacare; Christie Confronts Heckler at Ballgame; Trump Encourages Police to be "Rough" on "Thugs"; Trump Threatens Sanctions on Venezuela. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 31, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:52] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Call it Putin's payback or maybe Vladimir's vendetta. You pick. The Russian president retaliating against the U.S. for the new sanctions bill President Trump is expected to sign. Putin is demanding in response the U.S. cut staff at American diplomatic mission in Russia by hundreds, about 750 people.

Joining me to discuss, Democratic Senator, Ed Markey, of Massachusetts. He sits on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: The president is expected to sign the Russia sanctions bill that passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress. Russia did not wait to respond. What impact will that have, what Russia has done?

MARKEY: Obviously, what Putin decided to do is to retaliate against the United States. But, the important thing about these new sanctions, which the United States Congress passed, over the objection of Donald Trump, although it looks like he's going to sign the bill, is to escalate this battle between the United States and with Russia. We are trying to make it very clear to Russia that we will never again stand silent while Russia seeks to interfere with our elections. That we want Russia to understand that they are going to pay a price for a violation of the intermediate nuclear force treaty, which they are in violation of right now. That we need their cooperation in Syria far beyond the limited cooperation they are giving us now. And we need their cooperation in dealing with the North Korean crisis. None of this, substantially, is happening between the United States and Russia. Our new sanctions say this is what we need. Putin is retaliating. But ultimately, that's the only language he understands. We have to have toughness responding to toughness.

BOLDUAN: That -- OK toughness responding to toughness. Do you think President Trump will respond to now Vladimir Putin's response?

MARKEY: Again, we are trying to help President Trump have a reality check. He continues to deal with Putin in a way which ignores the reality of what Putin has been doing in Crimea, in Ukraine, in North Korea, in Syria, and in our elections. What we are trying to do is push him. And hopefully, General Kelly, as the new chief of staff, will have a more realistic assessment of what, in fact, the Russians have been doing and what needs to be done in order to have an appropriate pushback that ultimately leads to negotiated resolutions to each one of those conflicts.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned North Korea. Following the missile test, President Trump put out this statement. It hit China, basically, in response. He wrote, "I'm very disappointed in China. They do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue."

That was over the weekend. Then, the president said this just this morning in his cabinet meeting. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're handle North Korea. We're going to be able to handle them. It will be -- it will be handled. We handle everything.


BOLDUAN: "It will be handled," and he's pointing the finger at China in that tweet. What does that mean? Are there sanctions against China in the works?

MARKEY: Well, when he says, "we will handle it," he does so on a weekend where the United States is shooting off missiles in that region. There is no military solution to this problem that doesn't lead to an escalation that could be catastrophic, that could lead to a second Korean war. It could lead to the worst catastrophe we have ever seen in two generations in our country. So, the only answer is to deal realistically with China. There was a 37 percent increase in trade between North Korea and China from 2016 to 2017. The president should have known that. As we deploy our THAAD defense system in South Korea, what has happened is that China has cut off, for all intents and purposes, tourism between South Korea and the Chinese, hurting the country we are trying to help. The president has to get realistic. And that would mean --

[11:35:20] BOLDUAN: Do you believe him -- do you believe him that he -- you know, they won't -- when he said we will not allow this to continue with regard to China, do you believe he will get tough on China and will endorse sanctions against China?

MARKEY: There is no evidence to convict the president of that sentiment thus far. So far, he has not been tough on the Chinese. In fact, he's resisted the passage of the legislation we just moved through Congress, which he does not want to sign. Senator Corey Gardner, and I, of Colorado, introduced legislation that would be tougher on China and would cut off any kind of trade between any company anywhere in the world doing business with North Korea, including the Chinese companies doing that business, especially the top-10 Chinese trading companies doing that business. We have to get tough, even as we listen to the Chinese as they ask us to go to the table to talk to the North Koreans --


MARKEY: -- to begin to have a negotiation but we have to do it in a context of tightening the vice-like grip around the Chinese trade with North Korea simultaneously.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you something closer to home at the moment. Health care. Republicans in Congress seem ready to move on from health care after the failure last week. The president does not. He's threatening to cut off payments to insurers that help low-income people and cutting off insurance for members of Congress and their staff.

I spoke to former Senator Rick Santorum. He said it could be a good scare tactic to get folks back to the table. Do you agree? What would this do?

MARKEY: Look, the president has a choice. He can engage in repetition syndrome, which is only going to lead to an escalation or he can begin to work towards reconciliation, hearing what the members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, have been saying to him to find a way of ensuring the system does not collapse, not cutting off of funding, which is what John McCain and Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were objecting to, which would be the block of moving legislation. But rather working together to make sure the system does work, especially the families who are working families who can't afford insurance in our country. That's where the subsidies go. And that's what he's objecting to, helping the hardworking families who can't afford insurance in this incredibly escalating inflationary health-care price increase that has been occurring over the last generation.

BOLDUAN: Senator Ed Markey, thanks for the time. I appreciate it.

MARKEY: Thank you. You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Chris Christie has had an eventful summer. First, the private beach, then booed after catching a foul ball, then another incident involving a heckler at another game.

President Trump tells a room full of police officers, to suggest to them to get rough on, quote, "thugs" they are arresting. Now, some police departments are pushing back, calling the president out for the remarks and the wrong message. I'll speak with one of them, next.


[11:42:54] BOLDUAN: What is it with Chris Christie and sporting events, I ask you. First, he was booed for catching a foul ball at a baseball game. Now he confronts a heckler at another fame, a Cubs/Brewers game, in Milwaukee. Watch this.



UM: What did he say to you?


UF: There was Secret Service right there.

UM: What did he say?

JOSEPH: You're a real big shot.


BOLDUAN: That was apparently the end of the confrontation, I think we can all say, thankfully. Here's how the Cubs fan says it all started.


JOSEPH: When he was going up the stairs, I yelled his name. He was already quite a bit past me, probably 30 feet away. I yelled his name and told him that he sucked and called him a hypocrite because I thought it needed to be said.


BOLDUAN: So, there's all that in the sporting events. Don't forget, Chris Christie had an eventful summer. He drew criticism for shutting down public beaches during a budget battle in New Jersey only to be photographed on one of the beaches with his family, solo, with no one else around. Remember, there's still a month left of summer. Let's see what happens next with the governor.

Then this. "Please don't be too nice," the advice President Trump offered to police officers when talking about top agenda items when talking about fighting against the gang, MS-13. Considering the backlash right afterward, that advice landed with a thud among officers listening.

First, listen to the president, Friday.


TRUMP: When you see these towns and see these thugs being thrown into the back of a patty wagon, just thrown in. Rough. I said please don't be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you are protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over, like, don't hit their head, and they have just killed somebody, don't hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?




BOLDUAN: Afterward, the Suffolk Police Department put out a statement: "As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing of prisoners."

President Trump gave the speech in Suffolk County, New York.

They weren't alone. From L.A. to Boston, police officials criticized the president's remarks as irresponsible and unprofessional and the wrong message to be sending. Or, was it a joke, as some organizations who are coming to the president's defense, said today.

Let me bring in Jim Bueermann. He is the president of the Police Foundation, a national non-profit that works for to improve policing. He's also the former chief of police for Redlands, California.

Chief, thanks for coming in. I appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: So, you say -- you put out a statement after this saying you cannot support the commentary from the president. What was your reaction when you heard the president's remarks?

BUEERMANN: When I first heard them, I winced. It's the wrong message. Police chiefs and sheriffs across the United States have been working diligently to maintain and enhance the trust and confidence of the people they are paid to protect. A constant theme in policing today is the de-escalation of force. I think that this, as you have seen, since the president's statements, there's been pushback from police chiefs and policing membership groups that represent the police leaders in this country all over the place. It's for exactly the same reason. We don't want police officers to take that message from the president as the gospel truth. And it is inconsistent with their reality because police officers, today are governed by their own department policy, state laws and conscience. I have talked to a lot of cops and I don't know anybody who is actually going to do what he recommended.

BOLDUAN: That was one of my questions, Chief, do you think there's an impact of the president's words like this?

BUEERMANN: I think there is an impact. It's probably not on policing directly. It's probably more impactful on people who hear that, who don't know a lot about how the police operate, and believe that is either a license to abuse people in custody or it is consistent with their own experience or narrative or perceptions about police use of force. So, I don't -- I really don't know any police chief or sheriff that would support those comments. Ad, in fact, they have been working hard to message contrary to that. I think it's damaging and not helpful to relationships police chiefs and sheriffs have been working very hard to create between their department, their officers, and communities, and this is just not helpful.

BOLDUAN: Some of the folks who are defending the president today say it was taken out of context, or simply joking and they are not getting the joke. Do you think he was?

BUEERMANN: I don't know. The contextual piece that is recognized as the most violent enterprises in the United States. I understand he was talking to a bunch of good guys about a bunch of bad guys. But, I don't know. Maybe he was trying to be flip. I just don't think, though, when the president speaks, his words matter and people listen to these, and they add their own context to whatever those words were. When policing is struggling right now with this issue of trust and confidence, what this country doesn't need is for somebody to inject it that it's OK for the police to abuse anybody that is in custody. That is not how we are operating as a country. It's not how the police really operate. It's not how we should operate. We are a nation of laws. Use of force by the police is regulated by policy and laws. The only thing that is acceptable is legal and reasonable use of force by the police. When somebody is in custody and bashing their head against the door frame or throwing them roughly into the back of a patty wagon, evokes tremendous pain and memories for many people in this country about Freddie Gray, who died in police custody in Baltimore. I think these are symbolic in nature and adds to the angst we are currently experiencing in this country.

BOLDUAN: Jim Bueermann, I appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on and thanks for all you do and trying to do. Appreciate it.


[11:49:23] BOLDUAN: Moments ago, the president saying his new chief of staff will go down in history as one of the greatest ever. John Kelly's first day. See what happened in their first cabinet meeting.

Plus, as the country erupts, President Trump threatening to slap sanctions on it. We are going to take you live to Venezuela where protests are getting violent once again after a controversial election.


BOLDUAN: A country erupts, a city burns, and President Trump is now threatening to drop the hammer on the fast-moving crisis playing out in Venezuela.




BOLDUAN: Geez Louise. Protests turning deadly as the country reels from a controversial election, one called by some a sham that gives the country's president sweeping powers. Critics say democracy is now eroding there, moving closer to a dictatorship there. And now President Trump may hit them where it hurts -- oil.

Let's go to CNN's Paula Newton, in Caracas, Venezuela, following all of this.

Paula, the protests are about to start back up. What are they preparing for now?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. At noon, the opposition wants people back out on the streets to make it clear they believe that democracy is over here in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro can do what he wants to run the dictatorship that President Trump thinks he wants in order to run this country like a dictatorship. Now, the Trump administration thinks it won. We had a back-down briefing last week. Looking at a million different options. One not on the table, though, likely is outright banning oil exports from his country to the United States. Remembering that could bring up gas prices for those in the United States. But important to note Senators Marco Rubio and John McCain are pressing this administration to be tough on Venezuela. The people I talk to, yes, Kate, they're in danger, gone through deepening humanitarian crises one. The people I've talked to say, yes, they're in danger. They've gone through a deepening humanitarian crisis. Yet they're thinking perhaps President Trump is the one to help. It could actually worsen in the short term. There's a crisis in terms of getting food and medicine. They do believe that kind of pressure is needed on the regime at this time. As you've talked about here, Kate, there's only so much the Trump administration has. We could see sanctions as early as today. And we'll wait to see how forceful they can be -- Kate?

[11:55:34] BOLDUAN: Paula, quick, is it showing any signs of calming down or and moves that this is calming down, or is it just continuing to escalate?

NEWTON: No, not at all. The only reason it would calm down, Kate, is because everybody is tired and need to go out into the streets to get food and medicine into their homes. I read the fatigue on the face of the protesters yesterday. The only reason things would calm down right now.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Paula. Great to see you.

We'll be back in a moment.